It’s a ‘G’ Thing: Kids experience the magic of music through Cohen’s therapy program

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“She loves music!” Joe Demartino smiled.

“It lifts his spirits,” Rachel Gomes said.

“When she started hearing the music and saw the guitar is distracts her," Sharon Sverd described.

A distraction from the doctors, tests and pain, that is instrumental for these children.

“Aria has already been in the hospital 12 times since she was born and she gets upset really easily,” Allison Iler, mother, said. "She likes to listen to music and it’s the only time she really doesn’t cry.”

Aria is just one of many who take part in music therapy at Cohen Children's Medical Center.

“The kids are just having fun and that’s exactly what it’s going to appear like but it has a bigger meaning for the children and the families,” AnnMarie DiFrancesca, Director of Child Life Services, explained.  “There is more and more research showing the impact music therapy makes on the healing process and not just physically but mentally and emotionally too.”

“What do you feel when you’re singing?" I asked Abby. "I feel happy and energized,” she replied.

11-year-old Abby can't leave her room very often but always tries to find the strength to come to this program.

“I like the rhythm, the words and the way it sounds,” she smiled.

And it takes a special person to make everyone feel in harmony.

“The most important part of music therapy and what it brings to kids is that it gives them a sense of identity," Shawna Vernisie, board-certified music therapist, said.

Shawna Vernisie has been a music therapist for five years but has been playing her way into people's hearts her whole life.

“I was actually born prematurely myself and I had about a month’s stay in the NICU and during that time, my parents couldn’t touch me,” she explained. “So they sang to me and through that I feel like music was just born within me.”

She leads group sessions where kids can express themselves.

“It just makes me feel better that my son has a place to go where he can play music because music is one of his favorite things,” Gomes said.

“Having all these things on her, it makes it tough,” Dimartino said. "So coming here has calmed her down quite a bit.”

“The beautiful thing is she doesn’t have to be stuck in her hospital room the whole time," Peter Sverd smiled. "It’s a great place for kids to be."

Shawna also strums and sings for those stuck in their bed.

“How do you feel right now?" I asked Gabriella. "Good, [I feel happy!]" she smiled.

No one knows  how long these children will be in the hospital, but through music therapy they have memories that will stick with and empower them forever.

Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi

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