Last summer, the Dream Team was just a fantasy.
Now, the student volunteer group runs a program with children in cardiac care at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.
“It started on a laptop in the Summer of 2013,” said president Alex Breslin, a 21-year-old UF biology junior. “We’ve come a long way since then.”
The team consists of about 40 UF pre-med students who volunteer on a weekly or monthly basis.
At the beginning of the Spring semester, about 250 applied for positions on the team.
The group puts on events for the children like movie nights and fundraisers. Every Saturday, the Dream Team hosts group bingo, said Shands child life specialist Amanda Huthlett.
“If a patient is too sick to come down, the volunteers go with an iPad to their room so that they can still be connected and play the same game of bingo that the other kids are playing,” she said. “It lets them connect with the other children even when they’re in isolation.”
Huthlett said families are excited to have their children work with specially trained students. She said the volunteers help patients cope with treatment, which shortens therapy sessions.
The team’s vice president, Liz Kleinfeld, said these children often spend extended periods of time in the hospital.
“Any chance we have to brighten their day is incredible,” the 20-year-old UF accounting junior said. “I can’t think of a more worthy way to spend my time here at UF.”
[A version of this story ran on page 9 on 4/11/2014 under the headline "Team helps kids in hospital cope"]