Play that heals: Beekhuizen endowed fund supports Child Life Program


Child Life

One afternoon 15 years ago, Dan Beekhuizen was sitting with his daughter, Stephanie, in the infusion room at Children’s Hospital
Colorado. She was being treated for a brain tumor.

Dan heard laughter coming from down the hall. He went to investigate and discovered young patients, all with bald heads, running and giggling together. It stunned him. Despite their condition, the children were playing just like other kids.

In the midst of profoundly difficult circumstances, Dan recalls feeling the most comforting sense of normalcy.

“That’s when philanthropy started for me,” he said.

Dan decided then and there that he wanted to help all families to experience hope and joy, no matter what they faced in their medical journeys. Giving to Children’s Hospital Colorado's Child Life Program is his way of doing that – and he’s been doing so ever since.

Fast forward 16 years. Stephanie beat cancer and is now thriving as a mother of two. The family still bonds over their admiration for Children’s Colorado.

“The place just oozes with passion. You feel it when you enter the hospital doors,” Dan said.

Over the years, Dan has remained committed to helping patients and families through philanthropy. His greatest passion continues to be the hospital’s Child Life Program. The Child Life Program at Children’s Colorado helps children and families cope with the stress and fear that comes with a medical procedure, diagnosis or hospitalization. Through education, emotional support
and therapeutic play, child life specialists work to reduce pain and anxiety while ensuring that families’ psychosocial needs are met. The program also helps patients stay engaged in the little things that make being a child so magical – like playing with other kids. Thanks to support from donors like Dan, Child Life services are offered to families free-of-charge at Children’s Colorado.

Dan takes every opportunity he can to shadow child life specialists as they engage with patients, parents and siblings at Children’s Colorado. As his business, Keesen Landscaping Management, has grown, he recently decided to make an even bigger impact on the program.

A Philanthropic Partnership

Two years ago, Dan created an endowed fund to support the Child Life Program in honor of his parents, who taught him to always help others. They were married for 64 years and passed away within a few weeks of each other in 2015.

Last year, Dan made an even deeper commitment by establishing an Endowed Directorship for Child Life at Children’s Colorado – the first of its kind in the country. The Directorship will provide a steady stream of support for Child Life services and elevate Children’s Colorado as a national leader in the field.

“I’ve been blessed in terms of my family, my relationships, my career and my faith,” said Dan. “I believe that having a blessed life comes with a responsibility. This gift is my small way of giving back.”

The Directorship is held by Carla Oliver, who joined Children’s Colorado as the Director of Child Life in 2009. Under her leadership, the Child Life Program has developed novel treatments to calm and engage patients. For example, child life specialists recently started using virtual reality glasses as a distraction during difficult procedures. The glasses can “transport” a patient to far-off places and simulate experiences like going on a safari or flying over the Eiffel Tower.

Dan’s endowment will expand these types of services, which not only improve the patient experience but also clinical outcomes. The funds will also support research efforts to develop new, innovative approaches to supporting families.

“Dan has truly established a lasting legacy with this gift,” said Carla. “Because of this Directorship, we know that kids will receive our services for years to come, and all of their psychosocial needs will be met, no matter how great or how small.”

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