Turning Ideas into Innovative Programs

Turning Ideas into Innovative Programs

How St. Mary’s Hospital for Children developed their Toddler Storytime Program

Daniel Devine
Grants Development Associate
St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children

As illustrated in the Programs & Services section of this website, St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children has many unique and innovative programs that contribute to its mission to improve the health and quality of life of children with special needs and their families. One of the reasons I enjoy being part of the St. Mary’s team is getting to see first-hand how many of these great programs develop – going from being just an idea in someone’s mind to a real, comprehensive program that positively impacts the lives of children.

For example, back in 2017, Jessica Shaw, a speech therapist at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children, recognized that the children on our toddler unit could greatly benefit from an on-site focused language stimulation program – a program that would help them develop their speech and comprehension skills while also introducing them to the joys of reading.

Interested in pursuing this idea, she wrote a comprehensive summary of her hypothetical “Toddler Story Time” program, laying out the specifics of how she envisioned the program – including weekly group story-time sessions, a book of the month, a word of the month, and even giving each child their own copy of the monthly book to keep, so the child could start building their own personal library and also be able to read the book with their families at their leisure.

It was a great idea, and fortunately several charitable supporters felt that way as well. Over the past two years, with the help of foundation grants and book donations, St. Mary’s Toddler Story Time Program was launched and has had a positive impact on numerous toddler patients at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children. The program has become everything that was envisioned in the original summary, and has even developed further to include “special guest reader” volunteers, as well as volunteer support from graduate students who adapt entire story books to meet patients’ specialized needs.

One of the recent highlights from the Toddler Story Time Program was a “special guest reader” volunteer visit from children’s author Karen B. Winnick, who visited our facility and read two of her storybooks to our toddlers. After the event, a colleague of mine and I were discussing in amazement how much the Toddler Story Time Program had developed in such a short time – and how, not that long ago, it was just an idea on a piece of paper!

And that is just one example of many impactful pediatric programs that developed in such a way at St. Mary’s. Much-needed services like our Telehealth Program and our new Locomotor Training Program were all born out of such factors: a culture of idea-sharing, charitable supporters who believe in our mission, and great new ideas from people who have dedicated their lives to helping children.