Hope for Henry was founded twenty years ago on October 25th in the basement of our rowhouse in Washington, DC, a year after the devastating death of our first-born son, Henry. I was still struggling to make sense of what had happened, but I was confident that I could make things better for the moms, dads, and kids who came after us. Fresh off our experience living hundreds of days out of a hospital room with Henry, we knew how to make a child whose life was similarly put on hold happy. Twenty years, 40 hospitals, and 120,000 kids later, we are changing how our children are cared for and improving medical outcomes nationwide.
Our original program provided patients with precious moments of normalcy and happiness amid the sterile settings of hospitals throughout Washington, Maryland, and Virginia. Through gifts, parties, and surprise visitors, we ensured that families would have the necessary resources to avoid the doldrums and despair of long-term hospital stays and painful medical treatments. In these early years, we measured our success in smiles. But as our data collection grew more sophisticated and our constituency began to expand, the true impact of our work revealed itself.
Educated, happy, and incentivized patients heal faster and better. This revelation became indisputable as our growing number of healthcare partners carefully measured the impact of our programming on their patients’ psycho-social and medical outcomes. Superhero celebrations, Halloween trick-or-treating through the hospital, celebrity visits, movie premieres, and spa days improved patient quality of life, and we began to understand the consequential clinical benefits. Those learnings informed our development of an innovative pediatric patient incentive program to nudge – and reward – kids for adhering to their grueling medical plans. By gamifying treatment and providing a reward at the end, young patients take an active role in their care, and daunting medical tasks become manageable and an essential source of pride and achievement.
This breakthrough was transformative. Instead of clinical intervention existing as a side effect of our work, it is now our primary pursuit. The results have been extraordinary. 98% of the kids who benefit from Hope for Henry have a better hospital experience with significant improvements in adherence, coping, and anxiety. 76% of kids undergoing MRIs no longer need to be sedated, improving patient safety and quality of life. Our hospital partners attest to their patients being more willing to endure difficult procedures, which allows for faster, safer treatment and the ability for hospitals to treat more patients better.
From a modest basement to the nation’s most prestigious hospitals, our transformational journey couldn’t have been possible without our relentless innovation, focus on impact data, and generous, committed donors. You answered our call when we gave kids gifts of consumer electronics in the early 2000s. You answered our call when we shifted our focus to combining education, coping plans, and nudges to dramatically improve clinical interventions. This October 25th, National Hope for Henry Day, we are calling for support to expand our critical – quite literally life-saving – program to every child at every hospital in the country.