By benwade

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Searching through the labyrinth of Shands Hospital at the University of Florida, one might eventually uncover a child’s paradise — a lone room stocked to the hilt with videogames and consoles and one oversized, man-made tree that brushes against the ceiling tiles. The tree is equipped with several nooks where a few computers are available for patients old enough to venture online. 

Marilyn Close-Battoe, Child Life and Guest Services supervisor at Shands, is in charge of stocking the shelves with activities for the children, and a large contributor to the hospital’s game collection is Child’s Play, an organization that receives donations in dollars or videogame items that are given to hospitals around the globe.

“At the heart and soul of this, of course, is the gaming community,” Close-Battoe said. “A lot of people envisioned gamers sitting in a dark room self-indulged, and this was just amazing. It’s just such an outpouring of generosity.”

According to Close-Battoe, Child’s play has been affording the children of Shands the opportunity to become comfortable in their hospital surroundings by helping to keep their minds off of the foreign landscape and sometimes invasive surgeries. An evening of belting out ballads in “Rock Band” and stomping on a few goombas in the Mushroom Kingdom does more for the children than keep them entertained for a night.

“It just kind of normalizes this environment by giving them something they truly like to do,” Close-Batton said. “It can be overwhelming to be in a bed and have maybe 40 new faces walk into your room that day. And if you’re of a certain age group, you see a white coat and you start screaming.”

An Amazon page listing dozens of items that would help create a more carefree environment for the kids at Shands is available as part of the Child’s Play program. Anyone can anonymously view the page and purchase an item to be delivered straight to the hospital.

Back to “Playing games and saving lives”

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