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Free Hospice Help Is on the Way to Illinois Kids

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Since early 2013, a colorful vehicle painted with butterflies has brought free supportive therapy to individuals, families and communities throughout the St. Louis area. Called Wings on Wheels (WOW), this mobile program is offered by Wings, the BJC pediatric hospice and palliative care program. 

Now, thanks to generous donors, a second WOW vehicle is out on area streets, reaching even more people and communities in need of supportive services.

Wings has long provided clinical, emotional and spiritual support and services to children who have life-threatening or life-limiting illnesses, regardless of their ability to pay.

“The WOW vehicle and therapist visit patients and their families at their homes, as well as peers of the child in the pediatric hospice program,” says Barbara Westland, BJC Hospice director. “WOW also goes to children in larger community settings — schools, scout troops, churches, care centers and community events, for example — where grief support is desperately needed following a death or community tragedy. Wings on Wheels fills a void and fosters connection and compassion within our community.”

WOW is funded by the Friends of Wings organization, as well as corporate and individual sponsors. WOW Illinois is run by board-certified music therapist and primary driver Carolyn Lemen. Its focus is on music therapy and interventions such as therapeutic songwriting, lyric analysis/song discussion, group drumming or instrument play, and musical stories. Lemen says music therapy can be especially helpful in situations when it’s difficult to express feelings or share experiences through the use of words. 

“When I tell people about my job, their reaction is usually something like, ‘How do you do that every day?’ or ‘Don’t you just want to cry all the time?’” Lemen says. “While it’s true that this work can be emotionally taxing, it is so incredibly rewarding. We give a lot of ourselves in this type of work, but every day I feel that I get so much more than I give.”

For more information, to volunteer or to contact Wings on Wheels in Illinois, call 618-463-7779 or email wow.IL@bjc.org.

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