Dream Big Studio Keeps UPMC Children’s Hospital Fun

By: Taylor Andres

The pandemic has been difficult to cope with for everyone, but in particular children and teens, who are still developing emotionally and socially. Fortunately, inpatients at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh have a creative outlet through the Dream Big Studio— a TV and radio broadcast studio inside the hospital.

“Dream Big Studio has been an amazing resource to us,” said Stephanie Colaberardino, director of child life volunteer services and the family resource center at UPMC Children’s. “Many patients, families, and even staff, have described the studio as a place to go and escape from some of the heaviness this past year has brought. A lot of joy and laughter has come out of the studio and that is definitely something we could all use a little more of right now.”

Dream Big Studio helps to meet the social, emotional and physical needs of patients and their families, which helps them cope, heal and find hope during their hospital stay. During normal times, inpatients can go into the studio to create TV and radio shows that are broadcast on a special channel that airs across the hospital.

Due to the pandemic, children haven’t been able to go to many of the spaces they would normally visit for fun. The Dream Big Studio has adapted in various ways to keep patients engaged from the safety of their rooms.

“With COVID, we’ve had quite a few restrictions in place that prevent kids from being able to go to the child life spaces they’re used to, like playrooms, the music and art spaces or the library,” said Riley Hammond, child life specialist coordinator for Dream Big Studio at UPMC Children’s. “However, staff are still able to go into these spaces, so we really amped up what we were doing with the Dream Big Studio to get where we are today, with staff doing three live shows.”

Patients can participate from their rooms through call-in shows where kids can talk to the staff or other patients and engage with one another.

Over the past year, the studio has partnered with various areas of the hospital like the physical therapy department, who hosts a dance party show, and the speech therapy department who hosts a “word of the week” segment to promote learning new words. The international department hosts a weekly bilingual bingo with English and Spanish language, and dieticians along with the executive chef for UPMC Children’s host a show for kids to learn about cooking healthy foods.

Dream Big Studio was funded by a donation from the Rossin Foundation.

Visit the UPMC Children’s Child Life Department website to learn more about the services available for patients and their families.