Soaringwords, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to embrace hospitalized children and their families encouraging positive health and healing. Soaringwords reaches out to children (ages 5-21) in hospitals, who are either seriously ill, have physical, mental, and/or behavioral disabilities, or both, and their families. Soaringwords embraces these children and their families both in person and online by providing fun, creative and educational modules (“interventions”) based on positive psychology concepts that enhance well-being. Soaringwords encourages these children, their families, and volunteers of all ages to take active roles to promote flourishing even in the midst of serious challenges. Soaringwords also encourages children of all abilities to embrace active, healthy lifestyles.
Soaringwords was started by Lisa Honig Buksbaum in 2001 after three experiences with death and illness occurred in her family over a ten-month period.
Soaringwords Unique Contribution: Paying-it-forward
- Soaringwords invites everyone – ill children and their families, healthy children and volunteers – “to pay-it-forward” by creating and giving healing words of encouragement and heartfelt artistic creations to others. This enhances feelings of meaning, purpose, health, resilience and happiness.
- Soaringwords is the only organization that motivates ill children and their families to pay-it-forward because helping others in need enables them to transcend their suffering and experience a greater sense of well-being.
- Soaringwords has empirical data that proves the effectiveness of its programs (Source: Soaringwords Capstone Research Study, 2013)
SOAR: A New Positive Psychology Construct:
Soaringwords pioneered a new positive psychology model to enhance well-being of patients, their families, and caregivers. This evidence-based model is called SOAR. SOAR has been tested among hundreds of patients nationwide. In order to assess the impact on enhancing the well-being of children with disabilities in this proposal, we will incorporate the same empirical rigor to the programs presented in this grant. Each patient will be given a battery of questions (pre and post-event measurement for each intervention) to show the change in well-being. The model consists of four components:
- Somatic: taking physical action and feeling emotional engagement.
- Outcomes: measured empirically.
- Agency & Altruism: sense of control in choosing to engage in altruistic activity for another person.
- Reciprocity & Resilience: reciprocity and resilience strengthen patients’ coping capacity for present and future challenges. Reciprocity is feeling deeply connected to others in personal and emotional ways (Grant, 2013). Resilience, the capacity to prevail in the face of difficulty, is a measure of heightened well-being (Reivich & Shatté, 2003).
Soaringwords Strategic Directions: Soaringwords strategic plan is built on the successes, strengths and values the organization has developed over past 14 years. The plan aims to ensure that Soaringwords remains strong and impactful and focuses on the following key areas:
- Program Enhancement: Soaringwords will continue to develop unique programs consistent with best practices.
- Program Expansion: Soaringwords will expand the reach of its programs to impact more ill children and their families.
- Resource Development: Soaringwords will generate sustainable financial resources to support its work and provide cash reserves.
- Infrastructure Development: Soaringwords will have the necessary infrastructure in place –administrative staff, Board members, volunteer contingent– to support the achievement of the organization’s mission.
- Visibility: Soaringwords will achieve increased visibility for its activities in communities locally, nationally and internationally.
Soaringwords Programs: Programs were developed by Soaringwords staff in collaboration with top educators at The Bank Street College of Education and Teacher’s College at Columbia University. Soaringwords core programs are:
- Hospital Outreach Programs: Hospitals embrace Soaringwords programs which are implemented in workshops, pediatric lounges, patient centers and individual patient rooms.
- Educational Outreach Programs: Participants in schools, universities, youth programs and community centers create Soaringwords stories, art, poetry and other projects that can be given to hospitalized kids. The program also provides best practices training for administrators and educators to help the school community when a classmate or sibling is diagnosed with a serious illness or dies.
- Soaringwords Youth Leaders: Ill and healthy children engage in weekly, monthly, or quarterly projects at YMCAs, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the country.
- Soaringwords Website: www.soaringwords.org contains over 1,000 pages of “best of the best” in positive psychology, mind-body wellness expertise and a wealth of videos and activities that enhance well-being, wellness, creativity and community.
- Soaringwords Employee Engagement Initiatives: Provides opportunities to leading Fortune 500 companies for hands-on team building events, diversity initiatives, training sessions, conferences, company-wide service days and other community outreach programs. More than 120,000 employee volunteers have rated Soaringwords initiatives as the best in class.
Soaringwords + Zumba Fitness: Since 2012, we’ve been sharing free monthly Zumba® Fitness classes in hospitals for children, their families and hospital staff. Each class starts with a Soaringwords Express Arts project followed by a modified Zumba® class, led by a caring and compassionate instructor. Volunteers are specially trained in Zumba® Kids and Zumba® Gold to use customized moves that are appropriate for children with limited mobility and/or other disabilities. Each volunteer has completed a rigorous Soaringwords Screening and Training process with in-depth training modules; professional references; and Letters of Agreement. Here is a 60 second video of a hospital class with the founder of Zumba® Fitness: http://bit.ly/1izLA3f
Soaringwords program modules provide options suitable for groups or tailored to the individual needs, interests and learning styles of hospitalized children, opportunity youth and caring individuals of all ages. These include:
- SoaringQuilts® and SoaringPillows®: Individuals and groups purchase ready-to-decorate quilts and pillows and personalize them with inspirational messages and artwork which are then donated to hospitalized children as tangible symbols of love and support.
- SoaringHaikus®, SoaringFables®, SoaringSuperheroes®, SoaringBeds®, SoaringGardens® and SoaringPhotographers® Using just a crayon, other easily available materials and one’s imagination, participants create one-of-a-kind gifts to share with ill kids to decorate their hospital rooms.
- SoaringMuseums®: Children around the world can enjoy “virtual” museum experiences without leaving their homes or hospital beds.
Click here to see Soaringwords’ Annual Reports from 2009-2014