We welcome new ideas, and encourage imagination and ingenuity. Here’s the story of how one employee used his talents to enrich the lives of children who are patients at a Connecticut hospital.
Michael Robare has good reason to feel pride when he walks through the hallways of the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC) in Hartford. The Comcast commercial sales representative had a hand in giving the young patients there a unique way to pass what might otherwise be longer, lonelier hours during their treatment.
It all started with a phone call Michael received two years ago from CRIS Radio. Based in Windsor, Conn., the nonprofit radio station provides an extensive Internet-streamed audio library of recordings, narrated by volunteers, for sight-impaired people across the state. The station’s programming also includes CRISKids, with narrated audio versions of National Geographic Kids, Sports Illustrated Kids, Imagine magazine, Yes magazine, and more.
Scott Baecker, operations director at CRIS Radio, wanted to extend this library of kids offerings to children in need, including those experiencing long-time hospital stays who may not be able to see, or turn a page in a book.
Scott and CRIS Radio’s executive director, Diane Weaver Dunne, had already approached the hospital about the possibility of putting the CRISKids Internet audio stream on a TV channel in patient rooms. At the hospital’s suggestion, they reached out to Comcast to help make it happen.
That’s where Michael came in. A Comcast employee for eight years, his job includes making sure area hospitals and nursing homes have the video and Internet services they need, and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is one of his customers. The nonprofit, 187-bed hospital admits about 6,000 children each year, and sees 55,000 more a year in its emergency room.
The hospital connected Michael with Diane and Scott. Michael was excited to help, and agreed to tour the CRIS Radio studios. Next was a meeting at the medical center to iron out how to convert the Internet product to get it onto the hospital room TVs.
To do that, Michael enlisted the help of a friend who was a Comcast engineer. After several months of work installing digital tuners donated by Comcast and another funder, two CRISKids channels – one with programming for younger children, and one for middle- and high-schoolers – are available on each patient television.
Diane credits Michael with finding the technical solution that helped CRISKids achieve what it set out to do.
"We couldn’t have accomplished this without Michael’s guidance," she said. "You can’t just plunk down a radio in a hospital – our signal from CRIS’ specially tuned radios won’t get past the steel in the building, and Internet radios are cost-prohibitive to have in each room, so this really is a perfect solution."
Even very young children are listening to CRISKids.
"It turns out the hospital staff is using CRISKids for infants," Diane said. "They actually put it on in the nursery. It’s very soothing to have someone reading a story or article to the babies when a parent can’t be there."
"Our relationship with CCMC is quite unique," Diane said. "We are hoping to extend this product with help from Comcast to other pediatric units in the country, or at least in the region."
For Michael, putting his skills to work for the hospital and CRIS Radio was a no-brainer.
"The hospital is absolutely amazing," Michael said. "They try to make the environment bright and happy … and this makes it just a little brighter."
CRIS Radio gave Comcast its ‘Business of the Year’ award in 2014. Comcast has also expanded its relationship with the station, including having a local Comcast executive serve on the station’s board. Comcast also recently provided a $16,000 grant to support the CRISKids for School program, as well as to promote it statewide by televising public service announcements.
"This was a unique experience, and it fills a really critical need," Michael said. "It was a good thing, and it felt really good to be involved with it."