Category Archives: children

Partnership with Camp Noah

Noah Boat

We are excited to announce a new partnership with Camp Noah! Camp Noah is a nationally recognized preparedness and resiliency day camp offered to elementary age children in communities impacted by a disaster or crisis. Camp Noah provides a safe and caring environment where children build resiliency skills within the familiarity of their own communities. They use a proven curriculum designed to help children process their disaster and/or trauma experience through creative activities and play. Camp Noah celebrates every child as special. In this safe and supportive setting, children are encouraged to face their fears, grieve their losses, identify and share their unique gifts and talents, and plan for an amazing future! (

Each Camp Noah is supported through Locally Trained Volunteers, Certified Camp Staff, and a Mental Health Professional. As part of our partnership, Camp Noah will be seeking our support to fill any of these roles:

Locally Trained Volunteer (open to students and CCLS): The primary role is to support the camp through helping with food, registration, set-up and take-down, etc. Online training is not required.

Certified Camp Staff (open to students and CCLS): The primary role is to enact the camp curriculum and lead and support campers. Online training is required (free to CCLS, reduced cost for CL students).

Mental Health Professional (CCLS only): The primary role of the mental health professional is to be a resource and support to any children or staff with specific mental health needs during the camp. In addition, should the need for additional or ongoing mental health support be assessed, the mental health professional will assist in providing contacts in the community for these ongoing services. Online training is required (free of charge) and a $500 stipend will be offered for full-week commitment to the camp.

If you are interested in getting involved, please check our website regularly. Future camp dates and locations will be posted as camp locations are confirmed. If you see a camp that you are interested in volunteering, please complete the Camp Noah volunteer interest form. In addition, CLDR will be reaching out to local members as needed.

Building at Noah Fun at Camp Noah Fun at Camp Noah

Upcoming Events in Boston and NYC

Happy Child Life Month!

Child life specialists in the Boston and surrounding areas will have the opportunity to learn more about CLDR at the New England Child Life Professionals‘ Annual Child Life Month Event on April 3rd.  Click here for more information.

Also, SAVE -THE-DATE for the Spring one-day Children’s Disaster Services training in New York City for child life specialists and students!  This training will be hosted by Bank Street College and Child Life of Greater New York on September 16th.  Stay tuned for registration information.

2016 Year in Review

2016 was a big year for CLDR!  

…but to be honest, we have been saying that same thing for the past several years.

This all started as a lofty dream; an idea that we knew would meet a substantial need and have a huge impact.  We were committed to the cause, but I’m not sure we truly thought it would come to much- or at least not this much this quickly.  As each year passes, we look at each other and laugh in amazement at all that has been accomplished.  This continues to be exactly what we hoped for and much more than we expected.

2016 Recap:

We continued to solidify a strong partnership with Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) for local and national deployments in the US. In January, Katie Nees, Director of CLDR and Kathy Fry-Miller, Associate Director of CDS met with a group of child life specialists in Florida due to a need for more disaster responders in the Gulf Coast.  Two child life specialists took on leadership roles within CDS and became CDS Regional Coordinators, Erin Silber (Tampa, FL) and Heather Storey (Cincinnati, OH).  Numerous other child life specialists engaged in CDS and CLDR local efforts in their own cities – Kristy Woodwyk (Kalamazoo, MI), Lindsey Murphy (Columbia, MO), Erin Silber (Tampa, FL), and Heather Storey (Cincinnati, OH).  In September, the Florida Association of Child Life Professionals (FACLP) hosted a CDS training in Tampa specifically for 40 child life specialists, students, and music/art/rec therapists.  In October, Kristy Woodwyk, a CCLS at Bronson Children’s Hospital, hosted a training in Kalamazoo and in December, the Pacific Northwest Child Life Association (PNCLA) hosted a two-day CDS training in Seattle.  Several other CDS trainings took place around the country with a number of child life specialists at each.  At the end of 2016, a total 255 Child Life Specialists and students from 33 different states had been trained with CDS.

We deployed 8 out of 12 months this past year responding to 6 different disasters with CDS including the numerous Louisiana floods, the Missouri flooding, the California wildfires, the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting, and Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina.  A total of 14 Child life specialist/students deployed including: Corinne Joplin, Lindsey Murphy, Sandy Bruner, Erin Silber (deployed twice), Gail Klayman, Tiffany Heinz, Katie Nees, Brianna Pastewski, Paula Hampel, Kelsey Loftus, Heather Storey, Crystal Baker, and Jessica Huerta.  A special thanks to each of them, their colleagues, families, and their employers for the support they so graciously offered prior to, during, and after their deployments.

Katie Nees presented with Kathy Fry-Miller, Associate Director of CDS at the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) Annual Conference.   Lindsey Murphy, CLDR Associate Director, and Heather Storey, CLDR Director of Community Relations, presented research on role-transferability and barriers to child life specialists deploying during disasters at the Mountain West Child Life Association (MWCLA) Conference.

CDS facilitated a Critical Response Training for experienced CDS volunteers.  This training focused on man-made disasters (including acts of terrorism, mass shootings, and major airplane/train accidents).  This group of specially trained CDS volunteers will be called upon for future man-made disaster deployments.  Six child life specialists were invited and attended this training alongside 40+ other experienced CDS volunteers.   Katie Nees presented at this training on helping children cope with traumatic grief and loss and offered many specific strategies that could be utilized with children during these critical responses.

We established our Board of Directors and became an official non-profit, obtaining 501(c)(3) status.  M. Anne Longo, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC accepted our invitation for CLDR Board Member.  Dr. Longo has been an innovator, educator, and leader in pediatrics for 30+ years and provides an invaluable perspective for our continued growth.

We developed Task Forces to accomplish specific large-scale tasks for our organization:

Research Task Force

Lead by Lindsey Murphy and includes Elise Huntley, Rachel Schmelzer, Megan Cassani, and Cassie Weisz.

This group is working on publishing data collected from child life specialists on the barriers related to deploying to disasters and on the transferability of child life skills to disasters.  Future projects are lined up and additional research teams will be formed in 2017.

Resources Task Force

Lead by Katie Nees and Lois Pearson and includes Paula Hampel, Maria Sherry, and Caleb Tait.

This group is working on collecting, reviewing, and choosing resources that will be vetted by CLDR as accurate and appropriate resources for CLS’s and the general public.  These will be organized by type of disaster on the CLDR website under the resources tab.  The groups plans on identifying gaps in available resources and developing a plan for meeting those resource needs.

Local Expansion Task Force

Lead by Heather Storey and Gail Klayman with Erin Silber.

This group is working on trouble-shooting ways for CLS’s to become integrated in disaster services within their local communities. Their goal is to work alongside our national partner, CDS to continue their local expansion efforts as well as increase the ways CLS’s can contribute locally to disaster relief efforts.  They are organizing documents and resources including letters and PowerPoints that can be utilized by CLS’s in any area of the country.  They have been collaborating with one local group that has incorporated CLS’s successfully to determine how to implement similar processes in other areas of the country.  This task force will be expanding soon by invitation to CLS’s who have already been working to integrate themselves locally.

International Exploration Task Force

Lead by Caralyn Perlee and includes Lindsay Borel, Rachael Heyns, Liz Hines, Jill Meyers, and Mizuho “Millie” Uyehama.

This group is researching various organizations in the international disaster relief community that might potentially be interested in and a good fit for a partnership.  They have begun building a database of organizations based on their research as well as their pre-existing networks and are looking towards developing the best plan of action for forging future potential partnerships.

Thank you to all of you who have joined us to make this a reality!  We anticipate 2017 being an even bigger year than 2016 and already have some major new developments in progress.  Click here for the announcement of our first international partnership.

Please take this time to update your contact information, address, and child life certification status by emailing us at

Happy New Year to you all!

Our Hearts Go Out To Chattanooga, Tennessee

Our hearts go out to the victims, families, first responders, hospital and school personnel, and child life specialists in Chattanooga, TN involved with the school bus crash today.

Children near and far can experience trauma related to this event.  For a great resource providing tips on talking with children after a traumatic event, please visit: 

Additionally, here is a resource for educators providing tips on how to approach and support grieving students: 


Their Lives Disrupted- Kelsey Loftus

Walking into the shelter we were greeted with endless smiles. Sam (not his real name), one of the kiddos from yesterday, let out a big gasp and smile when he saw me. He was so excited when we opened to come back and play. When his dad, Bob (note his real name), dropped him of he began to tell their story. They had been living in the shelter from almost a month now. His mom has gotten sick and required hospitalization and has been in the hospital for about a week. His dad continued on saying, “I can’t wait for her to get out so we can get out of here. I am about to lose it”. Bob shared his plans for the future including leaving North Carolina as it has been difficult to find work too. “If I have to start over, I would rather start over somewhere else” said Bob. He verbalized endless gratitude toward us all for our time and services. “You have no idea how grateful we are for you guys. Sam woke me up bright and early this morning asking to go back to ‘daycare”’ stated Bob.

I cannot even begin to imagine all the feelings that parents and kiddos are feeling from this disaster. Having a place to call your home being ruined or washed away all in a moment’s notice. Having to stay in an unfamiliar place, in a big open room, with strangers, and no privacy. Having no idea how much longer you will be in the shelter or where you will end up. Being separated from family and friends. Being unable to work or leave the area unless there is a shuttle or if your car survived the disaster. I am sure this doesn’t even being to cover the list of feelings and emotions.  But, through my experience it is clear that having a safe place where the parents can take their kids to play, be kids, and work through the trauma utilizing play makes the world of a difference for children, parents, family members, and even staff. The laughter, joy, and smiles that come from center is contagious.

I snapped a few pictures of the devastation around us.  It becomes more real as I get to know the kids and families affected.

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Deep Bonds and Relationships

The adventure continues…

Tuesday evening I arrived in Fayetteville, NC. During my last flight, I was on a very small plane, throughout the flight I had a long conversation with an elderly lady sitting next to me. She shared that she was coming back home for the first time since Hurricane Matthew. As we were landing, the sun was just setting and we could see some of the destruction that had happened. I could see quiet tears running down her cheeks as she stared at the window, I reached over and gently held her hand as we landed. No words were spoken but we hugged one another and I knew at that moment, this was the only place I wanted to be.

It was a strange feeling walking off a the plane and not knowing who I was looking for, who was picking me up, or where I was going. Quickly I found my team members and we loaded into a van to Fort Braggs where the Red Cross base is. After a lot of logistics we were taken to our hotel for the evening. I won’t go into all the details, but it was a long night. The night included knocks on the door from unwelcomed guests and also bugs. None of this seemed to bother me though, you learn quickly to roll with things and just laugh (a lot) along the adventure. It’s pretty crazy how quickly hundreds of “strangers” become your closer friends when you are all thrown together to accomplish the same purpose.

Wednesday morning we thankfully checked out of that hotel. After a lot of “hurry up and wait” we finally arrived at the shelter! As I mentioned before we are at a shelter with 48 residents, 11 of whom are children. We were greeted very warmly and enthusiastically as many expressed “we’ve been waiting for you!” “Where have you been?!”

The Red Cross shelter leader gave me a tour of the shelter, as we were touring and he was showing me the room where all the residents are sleeping, a young girl came running over and gave me the sweetest hug. When I told her I was there to spend time with her, her mothers eyes were filled with tears as she said “you don’t know how much that means.”

We couldn’t set up our space quick enough as a couple children didn’t want to wait. We spent the rest of the day playing and getting know a few of the children who have been living in the shelter. I particularly enjoyed getting to know a 6yo little girl who had just started back at school. We sat working on her homework together and I loved the way we started to develop a relationship. It took some silly dancing and voices but eventually she allowed me to assist her with her homework. I’m looking forward to continuing fostering relationships and helping the children get a sense of “normal” back…

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– Heather Storey

Critical Response Training

4 CCLSs and 1 CL student

We were excited to be a part of Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) Critical Response Training this past week in Maryland.   This two day training focused on specialized deployments including acts of terrorism, man-made disasters, and aviation/transportation disasters.  We heard from the American Red Cross, FEMA, NTSB as well as others.  Katie Nees (child life specialist) also had the privilege of presenting at this training.  There are so many innovative and energizing things happening with our partnership with CDS!

Hurricane Matthew Deployment Update

Our partner, Children’s Disaster Services is still on stand-by with the Red Cross for potential deployment.  Thank you to the CDS team that was ready and prepared to deploy already!  They have not been sent out yet at this point.  As of right now, the needs are continually being assessed along with the changing status of shelters and disaster assistance centers.  Some areas are facing extreme flooding which has created extra challenges for responding.  It can sometimes be an hour-by-hour assessment to determine the best location and timing for deployment.   We are especially grateful for those of you in Florida and surrounding areas who were able to make it to our training in Tampa last month and are working hard to complete your certification paperwork!  Many of you have sent in your availability, even if just to drive to a disaster site for a short weekend, which is great info to have as CDS keeps tabs on the ever-changing situation and need.  Contact us if you have any questions!

CDS Training in Tampa, September 2016

Can You Respond?


There is potential for a significant need to help children affected by Hurricane Matthew.  If you are certified with our partner, Children’s Disaster Services, please consider your availability to deploy and email the CDS office with that information:

NOTE: If you recently trained in Tampa, FL or Kalamazoo, MI, send in your paperwork and your availability.  There is a possibility CDS could expedite your paperwork depending on the deployment need and your availability.

ALSO: If you are connected with us (CLDR), you have trained for deployment, and are unsure if you have completed all the necessary paperwork, feel free to email us: to inquire about your certification status.

Thanks to all of you who seek to assist children during these difficult times!

A Great Training in Kalamazoo!

The Children’s Disaster Services Training in Kalamazoo, Michigan last weekend was a terrific mix of child life specialists, teachers, social workers, emergency management employees, and others with a wide variety of backgrounds and a common love for kids.  Take a look at these faces- you might see them on a future deployment!

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