I didn’t have to think twice about canceling my Friday afternoon plans. I received a call from my local Red Cross about a children’s support need during a vigil for a shooting involving 5 people just 3 miles from where I live. Downtown Cincinnati’s Fountain Square is the pulse of my home town. I enjoy music and events in that area regularly. I was in that Fifth Third Bank building where the shooting occurred just last week and have been a bank patron for 48 years.
I was able to respond to the call with another CLDR Child Life Specialist, Amy Cusimano and two others were on-call if we needed more help. I have deployed nationally for this work, but it was quite a different feeling to be able to respond locally when my own community needed it.
Our ability to respond to this event so quickly was due to the connections we’ve been able to establish over the last couple years. Myself and several other Certified Child Life Specialists joined the Greater Cincinnati-Dayton American Red Cross as volunteers in 2013. Since our profession is not well known outside of the healthcare arena, it is interesting to see the varying receptiveness to include a CCLS, “outsider,” into an already well running machine. I have always been so impressed by this chapter’s willingness to learn about another mental health resource that specializes in children experiencing trauma. As we partnered with their mental health volunteers there was an immediate mutual respect of each other’s specialized skills and soon we were hearing, “I don’t know how we did this without you for so long!” We quickly were getting referrals to call parents with concerns and requests to partner with their team at events with groups or individuals experiencing crisis.
During my 40 years working in a hospital, I thrived on starting child life in unpaved areas. Now in retirement, I continue that passion as I see the increasing need for informed interventions for those traumatized by adverse childhood experiences outside of healthcare. I encourage child life specialists to explore our website and consider volunteering to support children locally and/or nationally as violence exposure continues to increase.
-Gail Klayman, MEd, CCLS