In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

July 25, 2019

Mayo’s Ninja Warriors Team With Child Life Staff to Give Kids the Gift of Play

By In the Loop

Mayo Clinic child life specialists recently gave pediatric patients a day they won't soon forget: a special event that featured kid-sized obstacles and a chance to meet Mayo's American Ninja Warriors.


Colter Bean is a "jumping off the furniture kind of kid," according to his mom, Cheyenne. "He's always go-go-going." The 3-year-old was living up to his reputation one sunny afternoon recently — much to his mother's surprise and delight. "He had heart surgery last week," she says while watching Colter chase a basketball around a courtyard at the Saint Marys Campus of Mayo Clinic Hospital Rochester. "He just got his tubes out yesterday and now he's running around like nothing happened."

That was exactly the kind of scene Mayo Clinic's Child Life specialists hoped for when they teamed up with American Ninja Warriors (and Mayo Clinic staff members) Andrew Yori and Candace Granberg, M.D., to host a special event for pediatric patients and their families. While the ninjas cheered them on, Colter and other patients tackled kid-sized obstacles designed with their special needs in mind. The Child Life team worked to come up with some activities that could be done with IV-poles and from wheelchairs. "It was great to see so many families out enjoying the day," Val Stuve, a child life specialist, tells us. "These families go through so much. This was a great chance for parents to be able to see their kids out of the hospital, still getting to be a kid."

Colter Bean with his mom and sister.

While Yori and Dr. Granberg posed for pictures and signed photos, they say the kids are the real warriors. "It's inspiring to me to see these kids," Yori says. "The obstacles they face are so much bigger than the obstacles we face on the show. We hope that coming out here and maybe doing something they've never done before will help build their confidence and help them believe that they can get through whatever they're facing."

For Dr. Granberg, a pediatric urologist, seeing kids in their natural environment — rather than an exam room or operating suite — was a treat. "It's great to see the kids getting out of their rooms and using their bodies," she says. "It makes me so happy to see them out here having fun."

Dr. Granberg knows activities like these aren't just fun and games, though. Research shows that play is important for kids' health and development, and it helps relieve stress. That's why Mayo's Child Life team works to create opportunities for play, even when kids can't leave the hospital. "We offer activities like bingo and crafts several times a day," Mary McCoy, a child life specialist, tells us. "It's a time where no one will poke them or give them bad news. It gives kids a chance to be their typical, normal selves, to smile and laugh and connect with others."

That's good medicine for kids — and their parents. "Before Colter's surgery, we thought we might be planning his funeral," Cheyenne says. "It's so amazing to see him now, just playing. It's such a relief."

You can see Cheyenne and Colter in this KIMT-TV story. Then amaze us with your comments below. You'll find the handy social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.


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Tags: Andrew Yori, Child Life Specialist, Dr. Candace Granberg, Employee Stories, Patient Stories

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