It’s not ‘just play’!

Playing is an essential part of being a child. For children with cancer and their families, hospital play therapy is so much more.

The Procedural Pain and Play Therapy program, funded by the Children’s Cancer Centre Foundation since 2007, helps to improve the quality of life of children and families living with cancer. This therapeutic program promotes positive coping strategies during the difficult and testing times, for children of all ages.

Liz Virgo and Karen Jolly, Procedural Pain and Play Therapists at the Children’s Cancer Centre at Monash Children’s Hospital, work closely with other hospital staff, including nurses and medical staff in the procedure room, to minimise the distress, fear and anxiety associated with treatment and hospitalisation.   Karen and Liz spend time with inpatients, engaging them in developmentally appropriate play and self-expression activities, helping to promote more positive experiences and making long hospital stays more bearable.

The play therapists also promote and facilitate The Beaded Journey’, a beautiful program funded by the Children’s Cancer Centre Foundation since 2008, available for all children and adolescents receiving treatment in Victoria. Each bead symbolises an event or procedure during their treatment, no matter how many times and for how long.

 Karen Jolly and Liz Virgo – procedural pain and play therapists at Monash Children’s Hospital
Karen Jolly and Liz Virgo – procedural pain and play therapists at Monash Children’s Hospital

Since 2007, the Foundation has contributed $527,000 to fund the salary of a fulltime play therapist at Monash Children’s Hospital. KOALA Kids has provided the consumables which assist the play therapist to interact with children like games, books, activities and other therapeutic distractions.

The Children’s Cancer Centre Foundation has also fully funded the psych-oncology program at The Royal Children’s Hospital from 2006 to 2013, with total distributions of $1.8 million to cover salaries for 8.1 EFT. This program funding included staff positions such as play therapists, neuropsychologists, and mental health clinicians. KOALA Kids continues to support the play therapy staff at The Royal Children’s Hospital with consumables to ensure they can work effectively with children to engage and entertain at every step of the treatment process.

“When we come to the Children’s Cancer Centre Karen and Liz help us feel like our daughter is being taken away from why she is actually here – it’s a distraction. What they do is a comfort and a support.”

“We brought Noah’s beads out to show our friends and family when he finished his treatment. It really took them by surprise to physically see what Noah’s journey involved. It’s such an amazing way to help others, in particular adults, to understand.

Families need support roles like yours [play therapy]. It was so great to know that Noah felt so comfortable with someone”.

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