Pediatric Entertainment Program connects Marshall students and hospitalized children


Brittany Hively

Marshall students Olivia Hart, Jodi Grimmett, Kaden Thomas and Caroline Foreman prep an activity with direction from one of the children.

Marshall University students are spending some of their free time bringing some pep and fun to hospitalized children at Cabell Huntington Hospital. 

Marshall University’s Pediatric Entertainment Program (PEP) is a nonprofit, volunteer organization for students to spend some time hanging out with kids staying in Hoops Family Children’s Hospital at Cabell Huntington Hospital.

“We’re just a group of volunteers that come to the hospital in much smaller groups, like three to four people,” Amber Sturgill, a junior biology major emphasizing in premed, said. “And we do either like a craft, or an activity or a science experiment with the pediatric patients.” 

PEP originally started in Charleston, West Virginia and has since spread to both Marshall and West Virginia University. 

“Our mission is to help kids forget their illnesses and just be kids by engaging them in games and activities specially designed for all types of mobility. PEP…Fun for the Fight!” according to the organization’s Facebook page. 

Marshall’s program has reached close to 40 members and continues to grow. Small groups of students are at the hospital roughly once a week with each student spending a couple hours each month with the children. 

 “It’s my job to reduce stress and anxiety for kids in the hospital,” Stephanie Cape, a child life specialist, said. “I also help normalize the environment by providing activities while they’re here, and that includes working with groups like PEP.” 

Cape oversees PEP’s visits with the children. Each visit from PEP is roughly two hours. 

“Each group comes in with their own ideas, and they come at it from a totally different way,” Cape said. “Quite literally, each group does things differently when they come through here, and that’s part of what makes it great.”

Cape also explained how the variety of students and activities has helped connect the students and children and get some of the kids out of their rooms. 

PEP has also connected kids with each other to find comfort during tough times. 

“There’s a lot of commonalities that they’re dealing with,” Cape said. “And they will jump right into discussions comparing how many sticks they’ve had and all that kind of thing. And then they come together and help each other with that. They bond over the shared experience and then give each other tips.” 

The experience can be special not only for the children being visited, but also for the students volunteering, according to Sturgill. 

“I love kids. I wanna go into pediatrics, and this is what solidified my interest in pediatrics,” Sturgill said. “I studied a pediatrician over the summer, but this was the experience that was like, ‘Yes, you love kids, you work well with kids.’ It’s a great experience.”

Students interested in joining PEP can find more information on HerdLink. Community members are also welcomed to volunteer and may contact the hospital for more information. 

Brittany Hively can be contacted at [email protected]. 

Brittany Hively
Marshall students Kaden Thomas and Olivia Hart help set up for an afternoon activity.