MORRISTOWN, New Jersey -- One hospital in New Jersey is bringing storybooks to life with animation to spread joy to sick kids.
Heather O'Rourke took a visit to Goryeb Children's Hospital, in Morristown, New Jersey and volunteered to read a book to children through a program called Calling All Kids.
Calling All Kids was originally created in 2011, when the Women's Association of Morristown Medical Center (WAMMC) came up with the idea of launching an in-house television station.
"People come and they read a book and they animate the book behind the reader so that the kids that are spending time in the hospital get to hear a story," said O'Rourke. "To keep their mind off of why they are in the hospital.
Available 24 hours and commercial-free, Calling All Kids provides family-friendly programming to distract the young patients at Goryeb Children's Hospital.
Hospital volunteers would read for Story Hour as a soothing diversion for pediatric patients, but it has become so much more under the direction of Suzanne Ruffo, Executive Producer of Calling All Kids.
"Our story continues to grow. In addition to animating illustrated children's books and expanding family-friendly special interest programming starring our pediatric patients and members of the hospital and the local community, we are incredibly excited to offer our viewers the opportunity to explore our new, interactive television studio in Goryeb Children's Hospital," said Ruffo.
In partnership with WAMMC, the hospital was approved for a studio space. This studio gives patients, doctors, and volunteers the space and opportunity to read these books and create animations that live on the 24-hour channel for patients that cannot come down for Story Hour. The studio allows the hospital to record stories two days a week.
Carla Cucinotta, the Graphic Animation Coordinator, gave us a tour of the new studio and showed us her workflow.
"It's a distraction for the child so they are not focusing on other problems - they focus on their lines, the book, and if they are going to have a good time with the story," said Cuccinotta.
A girl named Emily, a previous patient was the first patient to read with Calling All Kids and she was there to give Heather some tips during her time in the studio.
Other patients and past patients are involved with the program as well, like Collin Berg, who is now a Calling All Kids Producer. Collin reports on the television program and hopes to one day be a reporter for a news station.
"It's where I feel happy. I knew I've wanted to do this for a long time so every time I'm able to get my hands on a different project, it just makes me feel that I'm improving and learning new things," said Berg.
Heather was able to read a children's book called 'Neither' by Airlie Anderson.
"You know storytime brings people together and watching some of these kids come down the stairs, from their rooms, with their medical equipment, with their staff or team of nurses that are taking care of them," said O'Rourke. "Just to see them together to listen to a story and give them a brief moment to get away from their rooms, it was just something great to see and hopefully we will see more of that."
"Seeing the patient's faces and how they interacted with it - because then you know you're truly doing it with a passion for a reason," said Katie Nolle, President of WAMMC.
WAMMC, founded in 1893, provides financial support to Morristown Medical Center and has a volunteer base of more than 400 members. Annually WAMMC hosts several fundraising events, anchored by the flagship event, Mansion in May Designer Showhouse and Gardens. WAMMC also operates the hospital's gift shops and The Bargain Box Thrift Boutique, as well as WAMMC Network TV, which created Calling All Kids and is the first in-house family television station for young patients and their families to enjoy during their stay at the hospital.
Calling All Kids is a healing service that aims to educate, comfort and inspire. "We are dedicated every day to providing our precious patients and their families with smiles and laughter," said Ruffo.
To volunteer or get involved visit Calling All Kids website.