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Legacy in the News: Brave Bots help young hospital patients overcome challenges

OPB, Daily Astorian and Centralia Chronicle

Monday, April 8, 2013

Brave Bots Help Young Hospital Patients Overcome Challenges Last year, 9-year-old Ava Bruce found out that she had to prick her finger 8-10 times a day to check her blood sugar level, as well as give herself four shots every day. Ava has Type 1 diabetes.

To help support her as she faced her new challenges, Ava received a domino with a drawing of a robot during a visit to Randall Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel. This domino is called a "Brave Bot" and according to Portland artist Gary Hirsch, who created the Bot, it's designed to give people courage. Ava named hers "Bot Bot."

Hirsch, an artist, consultant and the creative force behind Brave Bots, approached Katie Dunn, art therapist, at Randall Children's Hospital to find out if his Brave Bots could help the children at the hospital.

Randall Children's Hospital asked Hirsch to make a small army of Brave Bots for children who may be experiencing social, emotional or behavioral stressors during their hospitalizations. That original order was soon increased, and Hirsch produced a larger Bot art installation that appears in the lobby of the Children's Day Surgery Unit. Soon, the hospital asked Hirsch to create additional individual Bots, so that more of the young patients who need a little bit of courage could receive their very own Brave Bots.

Dianne Parham, child life specialist at Randall Children’s Hospital, shows the Brave Bot art installation to children who come in for pre-surgery tours to prepare them for what their visit to the hospital is going to be like.

"I explain why all those Brave Bots are here," says Parham. "We know it's hard for people to come to the hospital and they have to muster up some courage and some bravery."

In addition to children who go through surgery, kids like Ava with new diagnoses of cancer or diabetes requiring treatments that may seem scary often receive Brave Bots.

Dianne knows of many children who have been encouraged by Gary's Brave Bots, including a 4-year-old boy who had leg surgery. "He had a huge cast on. The parents had to pick him up and move him from place to place. He was scared of being moved because he didn't have any control," says Dianne. "Every time they changed his clothes, every time they moved him, he had to have his Bot ... because he had to be holding onto it for his bravery."

Last month, Ava and Gary had a chance to meet in person for the first time at Randall Children’s Hospital.
“It’s incredibly gratifying to actually make something in your studio all by yourself and then put it out into the world, and then have somebody so completely appreciate it and use it and enjoy it," says Hirsch

Read the Brave Bots story and watch the slide show.