By Wendy Perkins, San Diego Zoo Global
At first glance, it might not seem that zoos have a similar mission to children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses. But these organizations share the common goals of saving, healing, and nurturing. Why shouldn’t they work together? Thanks to the support of IMLS, as part of the Museums for America Community Anchors Initiative, San Diego Zoo Global is making that happen.
San Diego Zoo Kids created a closed-circuit television channel for children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald houses. The channel features commercial-free, family-friendly programming that is entertaining and educational. It gives children—at the most challenging time of their lives—the opportunity to connect with animals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
There’s growing evidence that having a connection with animals helps people heal and be heathier. In a research study, San Diego Zoo found that 87 percent of kids and 83 percent of their parents say the channel helps make them happy.
Bringing the Channel to New Hospitals
In 2017, IMLS awarded San Diego Zoo Global a Museums for America grant. The funds are helping bring San Diego Zoo Kids to 75 additional children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald House Charities facilities across the nation during the next three years. The channel is currently available in 167 facilities around the world.
“We have reached a very important milestone for the channel,” said Debra Erickson, director of communications, San Diego Zoo Global. “Its healing properties are now available to millions of children in 35 states—as well as facilities in Mexico, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Qatar, and Curaçao.”
Most recently, the grant from IMLS has made the channel available on TV monitors in every patient room at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt and common areas at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Nashville.
Wildlife Programming for Children & Families
“This wildlife programming provides safe and educational entertainment that both children and their families can benefit from, making their stay in our home-away-from-home more positive during what can be a very difficult time,” said Elizabeth Piercy, executive director, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Nashville.
The channel includes videos of animals at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, as well as footage from conservation fieldwork, live animal cams and keeper and scientist interviews. The channel also provides content from partner zoos.
Through the programming, San Diego Zoo creates a way for patients to virtually leave their beds and experience the world of animals and zoos.
“Our goal is to help the child heal, but also to give them opportunities to smile, forget—even for a moment—that they are in the hospital and to just be a kid,” said Luke Gregory, chief executive officer for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.