In a new club this semester, students dressed up as superheroes and princesses visit patients at a children’s hospital in North Philadelphia.
“We’ve all seen how effective it is when celebrities do it," College sophomore Ouen Mali, who handles the club's finances, said of visiting patients in costume. "Granted, it’s not going to be as effective with our faces, but it’s still going to be a fun day.”
College sophomore Baotram Nguyen, who is in charge of external communications for Penn Heroes, said she had the idea for the club when a friend told her about the University of Pittsburgh's Imagination Project, which allows students to visit children’s hospitals in Pittsburgh wearing costumes. She then founded the club together with Mali, College sophomore Sarah Khan, and College and Wharton sophomore Daniel Rodriguez. The leaders contacted volunteer services departments of hospitals in Philadelphia and were able to make an arrangement with St. Christopher's, which typically has around 200 pediatric patients.
“Our main goal is just to make kids happy,” Nguyen said.
During a visit, Nguyen said, student volunteers will be able to enter pediatric patients’ rooms and “interact with them, talk to them, [and] take pictures if they want."
“It’s a completely different type of volunteering experience for most people," Khan added. "When you imagine volunteering, at least clinical volunteering, you imagine working at a hospital or a really medical setting, but this gives you creative freedom.”
To recruit members to the new club, Penn Heroes will be hosting its first general body meeting on February 18 in Civic House. Following this, interested students will need to fill out an application with St. Christopher's and be approved to volunteer in the hospital.
Nguyen added that Penn Heroes plans to have volunteers finish their paperwork by spring break so they can start visits by late March. Following that, the group will visit St. Christopher’s once or twice a month.
The club leaders said that students can still get involved even if they do not want to dress up. For example, Penn Heroes plans to make cards for St. Christopher's patients throughout the semester.
Because Penn Heroes is a new club, they added, it will not qualify for funding from the Student Activities Committee until fall of 2019. The club leaders are currently looking for local costume shops that are willing to donate costumes or sell them at a discount.