Community Connections Schools and Youth

CoachArt brings joy to chronically ill kids at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital

Do you have a passion for art, music, sports, cooking, yoga or anything else that might be fun for a child facing chronic illness? If yes, consider volunteering with CoachArt, an organization that is partnering with Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford to offer extra curricular activities for kids with chronic health challenges that make it impossible for them to participate in traditional after school programs.

Founded by Survey Monkey CEO in honor of his father

CoachArt was founded in 2001 by Survey Monkey CEO Zander Lurie and Leah Bernthal as a tribute to Zander’s father, Dr. Arthur Lurie, who recognized the need for long-term support and enrichment amongst the pediatric patient population.

The organization began by supporting patients at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, expanded to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in 2012, and just launched its partnership with Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in 2017.

Using the web to match children in need with volunteers

CoachArt uses its website to both recruit volunteer coaches who have talents and skills to offer, and match them with children and teens who are seeking enrichment experiences.  CoachArt partners with hospitals to find patients, but all activities take place either in the children’s homes or at locations that are easy for families to find.

CoachArt provides both one on one support for interests such as baking and musical instruments, as well as small group “clubs” for sports or other pursuits that are more fun in a group. Check out this cool video to see CoachArt in action.

Adapting sports, baking, art and more so all children can participate…siblings too

“Coaches learn to adapt activities such as basketball to accommodate wheelchairs or other limitations,” explained Molly Dirr, the organization’s Deputy Director. “And we include siblings to make sure that all children in a family that is struggling with illness can find joy and connection.”

CoachArt is currently recruiting coaches in Palo Alto and the Peninsula who have a sport, hobby or passion they want to share with a child. The requirements are simple: be willing to volunteer eight hours, and go through a background check and training.

Local expert teaches ‘design thinking’ through CoachArt

Claudia Truesdell with the children in her CoachArt design thinking workshop

What’s it like to be a CoachArt volunteer? Ask Palo Alto design expert Claudia Truesdell, who taught a ‘design thinking’ workshop in Oakland this past summer. Claudia guided a group of children being treated at UCSF Benioff Hospital to re-imagine the “kids corner” section of CoachArt’s website. “At the beginning, the kids didn’t think they had any good ideas,” Claudia said. “But through the process, they came up with so much great input, such as a group blog, video chat rooms and a mobile maker space.”

Claudia is bringing a similar approach to a new “Design Thinking” class for teens she is teaching this fall through the Palo Alto Recreation Department. During this course young people will envision new exhibits for the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo as part of its renovation and expansion. For more information or to register, visit the City of Palo Alto website.

To learn more…

Volunteer with CoachArt by visiting the website or donate to support their efforts here.

All photos courtesy of CoachArt.

About the author

Victoria Thorp

Victoria Thorp

Victoria is the founder and editor of Palo Alto Pulse and has lived in Palo Alto since 2007. Victoria's diverse professional background includes working as the editor of GreatSchools.org , as a senior writer for KIPP and Teach for America, and as a radio producer for City Visions on KALW (91.7FM San Francisco). She is a graduate of Leadership Palo Alto and a member of the Palo Alto Partners in Education Advisory Board.

She has a BA in English from Tufts University and Masters in Education and Secondary Teaching Credential in English from UCLA.