Here’s How Disney, National Geographic are Bringing the Joy of Exploration to Children in Hospitals
October 6, 2023
Disney and National Geographic helped to deliver the joy of exploration to children in hospitals across the country! Over 40,000 National Geographic Kids STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activity kits, toys, and books were donated to children’s hospitals and pediatric places of care nationwide, through Starlight Children’s Foundation.
Our legacy of supporting kids and their families when it’s needed most began with Walt Disney himself, who first brought Disney animators and characters to visit hospitalized children back in the 1930s.
Now, nearly a century later, the tradition continues through our $100 million commitment to reimagine the patient experience in children’s hospitals. This aligns perfectly with National Geographic’s dedication to inspiring a deeper connection to our world.
Inspiring the Next Generation of Explorers
Patients at Children’s National Hospital in Washington D.C. were invited to a special event with their families to celebrate the first hospital delivery, focused specifically on STEM, animals, and the environment.
The children played with toys, read books, and took a much-needed break from the stress of hospitalization. The items were curated to spark the youngsters’ interest in exploration, including books National Geographic Kids 5-Minute Baby Animal Stories and Little Kids First Big Book of Why. The fun continued with various animal plush toys, and kits that allowed them to grow their own giant crystals, dig for dinosaur fossils, construct their own marble run, and more.
“I hope some of the National Geographic toys and activity kits we were able to bring helped provide a brief distraction from the day-to-day for these incredibly brave children,” said Courteney Monroe, President of National Geographic Content, who spoke at the event. “At National Geographic, we like to tell stories that entertain and inspire a deeper connection to our world – for both kids and adults – and hopefully we brought a little of that magic today!”
The group also had the opportunity to watch some fun clips from National Geographic’s hit show Critter Fixers: Country Vets on a mobile movie theater Disney had previously donated, before meeting one of the stars of the show, Dr. Vernard Hodges.
Dr. Hodges shared his journey of becoming a veterinarian, in the hopes of inspiring the kids to pursue their own careers in STEM fields. He also brought along some furry friends—therapy dogs—to help demonstrate how veterinarians examine animals and use stethoscopes to listen to heartbeats.
“What I really hope that the kids took away from this is that we care,” Dr. Hodges reflected. “To see those smiles, and to see those kids just brighten up when they saw me, brighten up when they got their gifts, brighten up when they saw those animals— I mean, that made my day.”
Delivering Joy with Starlight Children’s Foundation
Disney first teamed up with Starlight Children’s Foundation over 20 years ago, to bring the positive power of Disney’s stories and characters to its network of children’s hospitals and pediatric places of care throughout the United States.
“We believe every child should continue to explore the wonder and imagination of childhood, no matter what they’re going through,” said Christine Soldner, Senior Director at Starlight Children’s Foundation. “We’re incredibly grateful to Disney and Children’s National Hospital for their continued support in helping us bring our mission to life through this National Geographic-themed event.”
According to Christine, vital programs such as play and engagement tools help young patients get through the stress of serious illnesses and hospitalization.
Disney-themed Starlight hospital gowns and pants, toy deliveries, care packages, and access to the latest Disney content are some of the impactful programs that Disney offers to help deliver joy and comfort to children facing illness and the people who care for them.
“We are grateful to our wonderful partners for bringing positivity and joy to our hospital and for helping us go beyond medicine to heal a child’s body, mind, and spirit,” said Kathy Gorman, MSN, RN, FAAN, Executive Vice President for Patient Care Services and Chief Operating Officer of Children’s National Hospital.
The National Geographic-themed delivery and event are just one example of Disney’s support of Starlight Children’s Foundation and ongoing work to help deliver joy when it’s needed most. This month, Disney will share some fang-tastic fun by donating Halloween-themed toys, books, costumes, and wheelchair wraps to children’s hospitals and pediatric places of care nationwide.
To learn more, visit joy.disney.com.