There are so many people using video for so many purposes, that it’s easy to lose sight of what really makes a video project powerful. But after speaking with the producers of the Morristown Medical Center’s Story Hour Channel, it’s clear to me that the most important feature of a successful project is a big heart.
Imagine sick children, sitting in a treatment room, waiting for a shot or stitches. Then imagine being able to take their minds off these scary medical procedures by reading a beautifully-illustrated story. That’s what the Story Hour does for young patients at the Morristown Medical Center. All day, every day — in treatment rooms, waiting rooms, patient rooms, and especially the Children’s Center — patients can tune in and see their own doctors, nurses, hospital staff and volunteers read a favorite children’s book.
The Story Hour Channel launched last March, as the brainchild of Beth Wipperman and Mary Bennett — President and Chair, respectively — of the Women’s Association of Morristown Medical Center. “The original concept was that Story Hour would be just a part of Ch. 46, and then we would add other shows like cooking demos for healthy living, and a list of other projects,” says Bennett, the driving force behind Story Hour. “But it became such an instant hit in the children’s hospital that people didn’t want anything else on that channel. So now we run stories 24 hours a day, and we’re going to put the other programming on Ch. 47.”
Mary brought in her own furniture to set up a most un-hospital-like cozy reading corner; Tim Luby, who runs the hospital’s Media Services, wired it up for video and sound; and then the readers started to come: 15 of them, every Tuesday, from September through December.
“We used to call them Tearful Tuesdays because people would cry after every set,” Bennett recalls. “What happened was astonishing. As these people read their favorite book, you could see something come into their face. These adults were transported to a time and place where somebody read to them this book so many times — they became emotional.”
Readers included members of the NY Jets team, who stopped by the studio to read Dr. Seuss; the head of hospital security, who brought in two books in Spanish; and doctors who showed their silly side by bringing in funny books to read. “It’s nice for patients to see their caregivers as someone other than just the person poking them and giving them shots,” says Bennett.
In all, the team recorded nearly 90 stories. Then came the task of putting them together with music and illustrations. While the hospital had some inhouse television expertise, they had to farm out the post-production. The first bunch of stories were edited, at deep discount, by Brisun Productions, a local business. The next group of stories is being edited by students who have taken Final Cut Pro classes in nearby high schools and are looking to apply their skills to a good cause. Story Hour has started an internship program that links them to the local community.
Story Hour has even moved on to a couple of iPads, which are given to children in the waiting room, to help get their minds off their illnesses. Doctors have noticed that watching these stories calms the young patients down. But while it’s designed for children, Story Hour has a big fan base among older patients too. Some of the stories are classics, and Bennett has noticed adults enjoying the channel as much as children do.
For Bennett, it’s been a fulltime endeavor. “We were pretty naive when we took this on. It’s been a tremendous undertaking, extremely time consuming. Telvue has made it a lot easier on the technical side, but this project takes more than your normal run-of-the-mill hospital volunteer. It’s been more than a fulltime job, but it’s been a tremendous journey.”
Wipperman adds, “There was nothing but positive energy from the very beginning with this idea and everyone who heard about it wanted it to work. I am deeply grateful for all of their efforts, talent and hard work to make this idea happen. I also believe there were angels helping send the right people to my office at the right time!”