Lisa Buksbaum, CEO & Founder of Soaringwords, is conducting a global empirical research study on the impact of positive psychology interventions, using the SOARING into Strength model. This empirical study is an extension of Lisa’s Master’s Thesis, Soaringwords Empirical Research to Measure the Well-being of Hospitalized Children under the Internal Review Board (IRB) at the University of Pennsylvania. Patients will be sourced from in-patient general pediatrics, behavioral health, obesity clinics, family clinics and departments where patients are treated for chronic conditions (asthma unit, dialysis unit, burn unit). This new study will expand the sample from 250 hospitalized children to a targeted goal of more than 2,000 pediatric patients, many additional hospital collaboration sites and an expanded global reach. You and your hospital will be able to use this research to show how expressive arts interventions and a customized dance class impact pediatric patient well-being. Your hospital will be prominently featured in the article that we will submit for publication in a leading scientific journal.
A shareable letter for prospective hospital partners can be downloaded here.
Mission: Each year millions of children around the world suffer from chronic or serious illness. Soaringwords’ mission is to inspire ill children and their families to take active roles in self-healing. Soaringwords is unique as it is the only organization to motivate ill children and families to “pay it forward” to help others. Studies show that when a child does something kind for another child it accelerates transformative healing. Soaringwords provides fun, creative and educational activities both in person and online based on positive psychology concepts.
Soaringwords’ interventions are based on the belief that strength and greatness are inside each child, family member, and healthcare professional regardless of his or her ability or socioeconomic status. Soaringwords also encourages children and families of all abilities to embrace active, healthy lifestyles. At the bottom of this page are a handful of testimonials from Child Life professionals who have collaborated with Soaringwords for several years.
The study is a one-time intervention to measure the impact of positive interventions designed to inspire hospitalized children to experience heightened physical and emotional well-being in the midst of serious illness. The study involves four distinct groups to measure the efficacy among each of the interventions
1) Patients experiencing a SoaringSuperhero® expressive arts project and a Zumba® Fitness class;
2) Patients experiencing a SoaringSuperhero® expressive arts project only;
3) Patients experiencing the Zumba Fitness class only;
4) An active control group asked to make a drawing of a person for the same amount of time as the above mentioned interventions.
Participants will participate one-time in one of the four aforementioned interventions. The target sample size is 2,000 children. We will also collect data from participating family members and hospital professionals who participate in the interventions (as they are always welcome to be part of Soaringwords hospital programs). We expect each hospital to secure between ten to twenty patients per week with the goal of 200 patients from your hospital.
Publicizing Research Findings
You and your hospital will be prominently acknowledged in all citations. Along with my esteemed colleagues Dr. Peggy Kern, author of the EPOCH scale of adolescent well-being and world-renown positive psychology researcher and Pamela Núñez del Prado, Director, Positive Psychology Research Group, Child Health National Institute, Lima, Peru and the Research Methods and Human Development Professor, Pontifica Universidad Católica del Perú. The two lead scientists on the team are Dr. Claire Robertson-Kraft and Dr. Nina Hoe from the University of Pennsylvania. We plan to submit an article of the findings to be published in a scholarly journal.
To date, Soaringwords’ programs have embraced more than 250,000 pediatric patients and families in hospitals and family clinics and 135,000 volunteers and families in company settings or community centers. Relevant accomplishments include:
- Sharing Soaringwords Expressive Arts programs with children and families in 196 hospitals.
- Each month, 355 Zumba instructors lead Soaringwords expressive arts projects followed by customized Zumba classes for children and families grappling with serious illness. This provides an energizing way for children and families to do something fun and meaningful that creates emotional and physical elevation in well-being, even while they are grappling with illness or disability. The Instructors complete a rigorous Soaringwords training and are licensed to teach Zumba® Kids and Zumba® Gold (for people with mobility challenges). The Soaringwords + Zumba classes engage the entire family to participate in the activity giving parents the opportunity to have fun and bond with their children.
- Soaringwords created and ran Caring for Yourself as Caregiver of A Special Needs Child workshop for families at 92Y in NYC with Dr. Catherine Lord, Founder, Center for Autism and the Developing Brain.
- Soaringwords has shared a What to Say and Do for Parents of Ill Children workshop for 1,000 employees and their families at Johnson & Johnson and Northrop Grumman.
- Lisa Buksbaum was the subject content expert on Good Morning America shortly after Jett Travolta died sharing coping mechanisms and strategies for parents and families. Lisa shared ten strategies to help people learn “what to never say to families who lost a child.” Many times, Soaringwords has been called in to lead community-wide programs to help families cope with complex emotions during a crisis when a child becomes seriously ill or dies. Soaringwords was selected as the Eye on Philanthropy CEO and cause by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
- Soaringwords’ projects have been embraced by thousands of employees in dozens of employee resource groups that assist children and families with disabilities at leading companies such as NY Life, BNYMellon, and American Express in many cities around the country.
- Soaringwords/Lisa Buksbaum has been invited to present at five international scientific conferences: (International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) World Congress, L.A. 2013; IPPA, Orlando, 2015; European Conference Positive Psychology (ECPP) Amsterdam, 2014; ECPP, Angers, 2016; International Positive Education Network (IPEN), Dallas, 2016.
- Soaringwords/Lisa Buksbaum has been a keynote speaker at dozens of conferences and global meetings for leading companies such as Johnson & Johnson; Accenture; Verizon; JPMorgan Chase.
The following is a detailed description of the proposed project and it’s projected impact and outcomes for patients and families.
1) Soaringwords’ Expressive Arts & Writing Projects. The first phase of the empirical study is based on a one-time intervention that will be shared with a larger sample size. Over a ten week period, hospital professionals and Soaringwords facilitators will lead a one-time creative hands-on Soaringwords’ SoaringSuperhero® activity based on positive psychology concepts among 200 patients in your hospital. We hope to be able to provide a class once a week (with ten patients a class). Soaringwords activities enhance wellness, creativity and community.
2) Modified dance classes. Soaringwords leaders 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 and able to lead classes for patients of all abilities, family members and hospital professionals.
SOARING into Strength. The Positive Psychology Approach to Help Children and Families Heal:
Soaringwords pioneered a new positive psychology model to enhance well-being of patients, their families, and caregivers. This evidence-based model is called SOARING. SOARING has been tested among hundreds of patients in the U.S. This new study expands the sample beyond the U.S. to include patients in Peru, Australia, Israel, and Canada to assess the impact among thousands of pediatric patients and their families, and hospital staff. Each participant will be given a series of questions (pre and post-event measurement for each intervention) to show the change in well-being. The model consists of seven components:
- Shifting: you can do something to create a positive shift in your attitude, your body, and overall well-being.
- Optimism: you can choose to find good things to notice and celebrate even when times are difficult or painful.
- Altruism: you can gain a sense of control, calm, and purpose by sharing your creativity, kindness, character strengths, and hope with others.
- Resiliency: you have the capacity to flourish in the face of difficulty.
- Imagery: you can tap into your inner knowledge to heal.
- Narrative: you can heal though the power of storytelling, writing, and reading.
- Gratitude: you can choose to experience moments of appreciation, even in the midst of challenges.
- We will measure the percent of pediatric participants who demonstrate positive changes in well-being as reflected in the pre and post activity survey which is administered by a hospital professional at the time of the intervention. Attributes measured include: positive affect, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment in addition to self-reported health, hope, gratitude, strength and resilience, agency and reciprocity (Soaringwords Capstone Research, 2013).
- We will measure changes in the well-being of family members as reflected in the pre and post activity surveys.
- Healthcare professionals participating in the initiative will report increased well-being which leads to better interaction with patients and the family members they serve and decreased compassion fatigue and caregiver burn-out.
Next Steps: I am happy to speak to you and any of your colleagues to answer any questions and discuss the Research Study in greater detail. I have included a handful of testimonials from hospitals that have benefited from Soaringwords programs for several years. I hope you will sign and date this letter and email it back to us to signal your approval.
As Margaret Mead so eloquently stated, “Never doubt the power of a small group of committed citizens to change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Your support and a shared vision and purpose will enable Soaringwords to scale proven programs and transform the lives of vulnerable children, their families and the healthcare professionals who care for them. This global project will be a significant contribution to the field. Thanks for the opportunity to put our hearts and minds together for a wonderful purpose.
Feedback from Child Life professionals for the Soaringwords + Zumba = Love for Hospitalized Children initiative
Soaringwords has been leading volunteer program at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital since 2004. In 2012-2013, I had the pleasure of collaborating in the first Soaringwords empirical research study that included 100 of our patients who participated in a Soaringwords Superhero intervention. The patients were unanimously happy to be invited to participate in the study and the findings showed that getting and creating a Soaringwords Superhero message and artwork significantly enhanced patient well-being of all of the participants. This finding was not surprising to me since the monthly Soaringwords visits with the expressive arts projects and customized Zumba classes are so greatly appreciated by all of our patients and families here at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. This is a wonderful organization doing meaningful work that supports our Child Life mission. — Katelynn Torres, Child Life Specialist, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Each month the Soaringwords + Zumba team arrive with a burst of energy and effervescence. These volunteers transform the recreational mall into the most happening place to be in Chicago! The patients and families love participating in the expressive arts projects all of which are designed to enhance the well-being of our children. The activities are powerful ice-breakers that motivate our patients to tap into their creativity and altruism which has a soothing and reassuring impact on their confidence and resilience. The customized dance classes build on the power of the arts project and exactly what our patients need: great music, age-appropriate songs and ALL of the choreography modified so that our patients in wheelchairs and with mobility challenges can participate fully. The instructors are trained to work with children of all abilities so that everyone feels 100% part of the dance experience. I love seeing the smiles and joy pulsing throughout the mall activities room.
I am excited to be part of the new Soaringwords Empirical Research project because we want to have data to show the impact of healing expressive arts projects and movement classes on the well-being of our pediatric patients, their families and our professional staff who care for them. This study will give us empirical findings to show the impact of these wonderful interventions to enhance physical and emotional well-being. — Darlene Kelly, Recreational Therapy/Child Life Director, Shriners Hospital for Children, Chicago
Soaringwords programs have been a well-loved staple at our hospital since 2002. The patients love doing the Soaringwords expressive arts activities and unique projects. More recently, since 2012, our patients and families look forward to participating in the customized Zumba Kids classes. Immediately after the arts and crafts and writing projects, the Soaringwords + Zumba volunteers offer modified dance experiences bringing a lot of fun and cheer to our pediatric floor. Many of our patients have shown physical or emotional breakthroughs after attending these classes. Often times parents tell me, “this is the first time I’ve seen my child smile in days” or they say that “this is the first time I’ve been able to have a few minutes of fun and chill out since my child got ill.” The Soaringwords program brings our staff and the children and families we serve together with a real sense of joy and community. This has also been a wonderful program to give the siblings of patients something fun and meaningful that they can enjoy while spending so many hours at the hospital.
The Soaringwords volunteers are highly professional and positive. Lisa Buksbaum, Soaringwords’ CEO & Founder is a strong leader and has a calming presence. Over the years in many instances, I have seen her touch the lives of so many patients and parents, saying the right words or sharing a healing imagery exercise at the most trying times in the hospitalization. Lisa has brought many volunteer delegations to our hospital from local companies. The patients and families appreciate receiving the special SoaringQuilts and SoaringPillows with inspirational messages and artwork. I completely recommend this outstanding program. —Marcia Graham, Child Life Specialist, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center
I work with hospitalized children every day. To have the opportunity to engage with patients in this way was so gratifying. At one point I took a moment to watch – staff were laughing, patients were smiling, music was playing and during that moment no one was thinking “I’m in a hospital” or “I’m stressed and have so much to do before I leave.” Everyone was present and joyful, and it didn’t need to be analyzed or assessed.
As a child life specialist, I work directly with pediatric hospitalized patients. One of our goals is to make the hospital experience as positive as possible, which I feel mirrors that of this Soaringwords program so well! What better way to bring joy and smiles than with music and dancing?!? In addition, child life specialists in our hospital train our volunteers. When I was reading the Soaringwords’ Hospital Outreach Volunteer Resource Guide provided for this endeavor, I was very pleasantly surprised. While to some people the information provided may seem like common sense, it is not always the case. Volunteers may not have had any prior experience with hospitals and/or ill children, and the information in this packet was extremely appreciated. There are so many things to be aware of in a hospital setting, be it body language, speech, physical location. Any possible scenario that we try to paint for our volunteers was touched on in this Soaringwords Resource Manual. Hygiene, professional boundaries, and professionalism – I honestly could not find any piece of information that would need to be added. Thank you for putting together such a great resource. You met the needs of the volunteers by inspiring them, while also identifying the needs of the host facility. — Kerri Baker, ZIN™ Member and Certified Child Life Specialist, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Providence, RI
Everyone always enjoys the weekly Soaringwords classes. It can be seen in their smiles, dancing and laughter. Great Instructors! Powerful and Positive music! Encouraging and engaging with sensitivity! Thank you so very much for offering this program here for the patients. It is rewarding to observe. It is a blessing to know that it is offered as part of the healing for these patients. — Linda Goodale, Certified Child Life Specialist, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Providence, RI
Lisa, thank you so much for allowing us the opportunity to have this experience on our child psychiatric unit. So many of our children on this Child Psychiatric Unit come from broken homes, neglectful situations and family relationships where there is little to no positive recognition. Having outside people acknowledge our patients and take the time to meet them and offer positive interactions is invaluable. These good impressions will last a lifetime for these children
We are always happy to welcome you into our Children’s National family and we look forward to soaring and zumba’ing with you! The Soaringwords team has the most wonderful positive energy and spirit that truly lifts up the children in our psychiatric unit. The volunteers wear bright colors and always bring an interesting mix of music and styles to share with our patients. Once again the instructors were able to help our patients, families and staffs transcend the hospital experience. We appreciate your flexibility, patience, and enthusiasm that allow us to bring a bit of joy here at the hospital. We are so excited that you are a part of our Children’s National family and we look forward to many other visits soon! — Dana Kristina-Joi Morgan, Performance Coordinator Creative & Therapeutic Arts Services, Children’s National Health System, Washington D.C.
I am proud to be the person who brought Soaringwords to our hospital. Each month, since 2012, the Soaringwords + Zumba program has been a great intervention. The children, their families, and our Child Life crew anticipate the joy and laughter each month radiating from the Soaringwords team. We have fully embraced it~ the two ladies visit twice a month with their boom box. We travel room to room inviting the patients to Move with the Grove. The patients, even if they remain in their beds laugh as the Zumba team, family, nurses, and child life staff dance to rocking music! Sometimes the RNs travel with us. We “perform” at the Nurses’ Station for a moment or two to get them dancing and give them a moment of fun. We focus on the most appropriate patients on our PICU, In-Patient Hematology/Oncology Unit and General Pediatrics. The Girls (the hospital professionals on our team) always get a work out and don’t go to the gym that night. It is a way to get the patients moving without them really knowing it. — Ann Nancy Fogel, Child Life Coordinator at Broward Health, formerly Chris Evert Children’s Hospital, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Soaringwords + Zumba is amazing! The patients love it. You guys are the best thing that has happened to our program in years. So much appreciated. — Theresa Kelleher, Program Director, St. Vincent’s Hospital, Westchester, NY
Since 2004, our patients, their families, and our professional staff have benefited from Soaringwords lively and wonderful programs. Over the years, many Soaringwords delegations have donated SoaringQuilts and SoaringPillows and led expressive arts projects with our patients and families.
For the past five years, we have offered monthly Soaringwords + Zumba = Love for Hospitalized Children classes with hospitalized children and their families. Each program has two parts: first, the Soaringwords team leaders invite patients to create a different expressive arts project such as SoaringHaikus, SoaringSuperheroes, or SoaringGratitude Ladders. These art projects are powerful ice-breakers that inspire our patients to get in touch with their creativity and compassion as they are invited to donate their creations to other patients as part of the Soaringwords pay–it-forward philosophy. The patients are happy to do something fun and interesting that also makes them feel like they have something kind to offer another person. Once everyone has finished the arts project, the Soaringwords team leads a customized, modified Zumba class that is appropriate for children of all abilities including children with mobility challenges or in wheelchairs.
Our Soaringwords team members are warm, professional and highly skilled. They are licensed to work with children (Zumba Kids) and they also are trained to work with children with physical challenges (Zumba Gold). I’ve seen the Soaringwords visitors treat each patient with enthusiasm, attention and care. We always see positive changes in attitude after the Soaringwords programs. Many family members love having the opportunity to see their children laugh and smile and also to participate in the dance experience or just clap along to the music. Another great benefit of the Soaringwords program is the positive boost it has on the health and wellness of our staff. Many nurses and aides enjoy “de-stressing with Soaringwords.” It’s always poignant when we get the opportunity to do something fun and “normal” with our patients and their families. I recommend this program highly. — Tangi Brownlee, Child Life Specialist, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Patients and families love Soaringwords! It is a nice change from our day-to-day activities. It is especially appreciated that the instructors adapt to different abilities. The instructors are always professional while being energetic and fun! I do think it is a nice option for those who may not participate in Zumba to be a part of the Soaringwords’ activities 🙂
The most powerful experience I have witnessed is seeing the instructor adapt for a patient in a wheelchair. This patient wanted to participate but I think felt embarrassed because she was not mobile. Seeing the instructor sit in a chair and instruct that way was truly touching and made all the difference for this patient. The Soaringwords + Zumba instructors who volunteer with Phoenix Children’s are amazing. That is the most consistent feedback I receive 🙂 — Julie Schwarz, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Phoenix, AZ
Inova Children’s Hospital is very grateful to partner with Soaringwords to bring joy to the children here. Soaringwords volunteers bring modified Zumba and crafts to children who are staying in the hospital. Not only does it bring an activity to the kids, but it brings a whole new energy to the hospital. The Soaringwords volunteers bring such positive upbeat energy that can really do wonders to change a child’s hospital stay. We are thankful that Soaringwords has been a part of Inova for so long and we are excited to continue this beautiful partnership. — Jamie Gentille, MPH, CCLS, Director, Child Life Services, Inova Children’s Hospital, Falls Church, VA
Patients love the ability to interact with others and dance from their beds (or out of their beds if physical abilities permit). Parents/family members are always extremely grateful for the Soaringwords + Zumba visits and thank the volunteers for coming in. Some patients are shy and just watch while others get very into the visits and ask to do three or four songs. Some of our long-term patients look forward to the visits each month.
Within this past month, a patient who (according to family members) hadn’t gotten out of bed in the past couple days due to physical inability, was so excited about the prospect of dancing that she got out of the bed and attempted to stand on her own to dance. Her family members became emotional because they were so grateful and happy that something had motivated their child to want to get out of bed and try to move. The patient- with help from family members- danced to multiple songs and gave her “Zumba” sticker to her dad upon completion of the dances. — Megan Francis, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio