To describe her first year as a Certified Child Life Specialist for hematology/oncology children in Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Meredith Burns needed no time to think. Immediately she said: Learning and Growth.

Learning because she took a deep dive into the medical world of pediatric cancer. It seemed like an alphabet soup of letters… ALL… CML… AML. “I learned about pediatric cancer diagnoses. Their treatments and medical procedures. I broke down scary words like “biopsy,” “catheter,” and “port” so a child could understand what will happen to their body.”

Growth because she understands the challenges a family faced when their child was admitted to the hospital after a setback or for treatment. “The outpatient world is scheduled, like the clinic visits. Inpatient admissions at the hospital are unpredictable. I started to think on my feet and go with the flow to meet patients’ and families’ needs.”

Meredith is standing outside in the hospital courtyard holding up a Heroes Bag and Backpack

Childhood cancer hero families benefit from having a CCLS dedicated to hematology/oncology patients. “Nurses and doctors change daily. But me? I am a familiar face to a hero family. I am with a family when their child is admitted. I check-in while they are in the hospital. If the child is admitted again, I am there.”

Over the past year Meredith got into a rhythm working with Erin Gardner, our Program Director. Their partnership is making a difference in how Connor’s Heroes helps a family in the hospital. Meredith will text Erin when a childhood cancer hero family needs assistance. Erin will reply back, ready to bring to the hospital the exact toy, craft, supply or gift card the family needed.

“Meredith’s daily presence on the inpatient floor allows Connor’s Heroes to support our families in personalized ways as specific needs arise during hospital admissions.  I value how we can work together to be there for our families,” said Erin.

Meredith remembers when she and Erin helped a family at a very difficult moment: “A child was admitted overnight. The family suddenly faced the end of their child’s cancer journey. Soon after I texted Erin with the sad news, she was at the hospital. She sat with the family in their room and offered them comfort.”

For Meredith, time after time, she has the privilege of telling a family about Connor’s Heroes. She hands a child and parent a Heroes Bag and Backpack. The child opens it and pulls out toy after toy, crafts, games, and an iPad! “Families become emotional — with tears of joy — when they open the Bag and Backpack. The Backpack reassures them that Connor’s Heroes cares and will give them support. At a time when they are overwhelmed, scared, and unsure of what is ahead.”

Connor’s Heroes thanks you — our community of heroes and an anonymous donor — for funding a CCLS position at Children’s Hospital of Richmond.

Meredith and Erin are a powerful duo who have the superhero strength of showing up at the right time to help a family in the hospital.

Stay tuned to see what more Connor’s Heroes can do when the expanded children’s hospital opens in April 2023. 

In honor of Child Life Specialist Month, we celebrate Meredith and all the CCLS who care for pediatric patients in Central Virginia.