This is not your typical game of bingo.
Anyone staying at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital can play…even from bed. All these kids need to do is turn on their TV to follow along, and call the bingo hotline when they win. Prizes are delivered door to door after the game.
Activities such as these are crucial to the healing process for young patients as laughter and fun help ease the stress of being in the hospital. The Child Life Services team at the hospital has been hosting bingo for nearly 10 years and also offers music therapy, pet therapy, crafts and other games.
Once a month a team of volunteers from Stryker, a leading medical technology company, partners with the children’s hospital to play a few rounds of bingo and hand out prizes. This month it is the Human Resources team’s turn to play, and they arrive with suitcases filled with prizes such as squirt guns, jump ropes, coloring books, pens, markers, board games, DVDs and stickers.
The first game starts with a joke, as is standard in this variety of bingo.
“What is a duck’s favorite snack?” asks the emcee as she kicks off the bingo broadcast.
“Quackers and cheese!” she exclaims as the room fills with giggles from patients able to attend in-person.
The kids in the play room become a bit more serious about the game as a couple approach wins. One consults with his mother over what combinations are needed for a win and listens intently for the next letters and numbers to be called. N-42, B-11…
The conference-style phone on the desk begins to ring off the hook within just 10 seconds or so. It’s clear that the competition in room across the hospital is fierce and that many patients are on their best game this day.
“Hello, bingo hotline,” answers Child Life assistant Lindsey Bailey with a sing-song voice of excitement.
“And we have our first winner!” Bailey exclaims.
After just a handful more numbers are called, the bingo hotline lights up again. Two winners back to back.
“We have a pair of winners this time around!” Bailey says.
B-3 and B-9 are the next numbers called. Tension builds for those nearing a win.
The next winner is Gavin Bodo, who sits at the table in the play room with his Mom, eagerly awaiting his chance at a win.
“Bingo!” he gleefully shouts as he points to his card and motions for his mom to come closer and confirm the win. He picks out a glow-in-the-dark beach ball from the pile of prizes and returns to his card to continue playing as each player is allowed up to two wins per game.
So that’s not all for Gavin. He continues playing and wins a second time just a few letters down the line—the first double winner of the day.
“This is a lot of fun!” the 11-year-old boy from Olivet says. “I get two prizes now.”
With this news, it’s time to take a break and start a new game. But not before another joke.
“Why do birds fly south?” a volunteer from Stryker asks the kids in attendance. “Well, because it’s too far to walk, of course.”
On different floors of the hospital, kiddos play remotely.
Malarie Johnson from Kentwood had just been in surgery a few hours earlier, but was already up and at ’em for Bingo fun. Her mom, Beth, shares that her daughter had a bone graft from the hip placed into her mouth because she was born with a cleft lip and palate. The good news: Malarie would be staying one night only.
“She was pretty nervous about the surgery, but seems to be handling things pretty well,” Beth says. “It’s amazing what the Child Life program here at the hospital does. It’s the first thing that that has brightened her spirits since surgery.”
AJ Hill and his dad, Alexander, play along just a few doors down the hall on the ninth floor of the children’s hospital. AJ has already won twice (imagine that!), so he’s moved on to his favorite video game while resting in bed with dad.
“This is AJ’s last day of bingo because he has had his last chemo treatment and will be going home this weekend,” shares his Child Life specialist Rhys VanDemark.
Doctors diagnosed AJ with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, in October.
“We are all really happy for him,” VanDemark shared. “He has a giant banner he is going to run through when he leaves and goes home.”
“I’m gonna run right through the middle of that banner!” AJ exclaims.
Heidi Groulx, with Stryker Human Resources, says the event helped start her weekend out on the right foot.
“We just have a blast hanging out with the kids and their families and are excited to come back and do this again,” she adds.