Firefighters are often seen in the community as heroes. They run into burning buildings and help save lives. But to the firefighters, the kids who are receiving care at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach are their heroes. It’s why they give back to them whenever they have an opportunity.

Since 1997, the Long Beach Fire Department (LBFD) has helped make the hospital stay for kids and teens at Miller Children’s & Women’s more enjoyable through the LBFD Kids Program. The firefighters brighten up the children’s stay by participating in annual events throughout the year – from the holidays to summer beach bashes – and even supporting patients’ siblings by sponsoring a Siblings Playroom.

“Giving back to the community through this partnership allows fire department personnel to connect with kids in a special way. There is a sense of excitement during these special visits that overcomes the physical and emotional obstacles that the patients and families are dealing with. Due to the nature of our job, the encounters that we typically have with sick children does not allow us to connect the way LBFD Kids does,” says Greg Curiel, fire captain, Long Beach Fire Department. “In the hospital environment, with the support of the Child Life Specialists, our Firefighters are able to share stories, sing songs, and spread joy to kids that are going through a difficult time. They are able to do this without the other distractions associated with an emergency incident. It simply gives our firefighters the opportunity to care for these kids in a different, more intimate manner. These visits build trust with the kids and their families and in some cases create special, long-lasting friendships. The smiles shared together at these events is our reward. We are grateful for the long-standing partnership with Miller Children’s & Women’s and we look forward to future events where a shared sense of caring, compassion, and kindness is shared by all.”

Throughout the years, LBFD has been a long time partner of the Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Program, which was developed to help make the hospital experience a more positive one for children of all ages by providing patient- and family-centered care to patients offering developmental, educational, and emotional support. Together, the two teams have escorted patients throughout the hospital to trick-or-treat on Halloween, visit Santa in his workshop and by bringing a special “beach day” to a giant conference room – all located at Miller Children’s & Women’s. Whenever the kids see the firefighters arrive, they know they’ll be going on a new adventure that day.

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, LBFD didn’t let that stop them from bringing smiles to hospitalized kids’ faces.  The firefighters hosted a virtual holiday event that was broadcast directly to each patient room through a closed-circuit television station at Miller Children’s & Women’s. They gave patients an inside look into Long Beach Fire Station 8, complete with a tour of a fire engine. During the broadcast, patients were able to call in and ask questions and even talk with Santa. For a moment, kids with a chronic condition or illness were able to be just kids.

“The Long Beach Fire Department has helped make unforgettable memories with the kids even during this pandemic,” says Rita Goshert, director, Child Life Program, MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach. “They have been a long-standing community partner that we’ve always been able to count on. I’m so grateful for Greg and the entire fire department for giving back to the community in the way that they do."

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