Katie Stoudemire


Katie Stoudemire | Founder, Wonder Connection | North Carolina Botanical Garden
Katie Stoudemire has worked tirelessly to connect sick children with extracurricular learning opportunities since 2006, when she started what has grown into Wonder Connection, an outreach program that brings science and nature activities to the hospital.
When I was a kid, I thought I wanted to be a doctor. But then I realized that doctors don’t get to spend much time with kids. And I thought, “Oh no, that’s my favorite part!”
While I was a student at Wesleyan, I volunteered at Connecticut Children’s Hospital and loved soothing babies with stories and songs. From then on, hospital visits remained a constant, therapeutic throughline in my life. After college, I realized I could combine that with my work at the Museum of Natural Sciences (in Raleigh, N.C.) by bringing museum materials to my local children’s unit.
One day, I brought in seashells. One patient was in bed with her eyes closed, not talking or responding to anyone. I went into the room, and I asked if I could put a seashell in her hand. She held out her hand, and after I put the seashell in it, she brought it up to her face and opened her eyes. Then she asked me about it. Within a few minutes, that seashell had her sitting up, smiling, and talking to her family. Then I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
Katie Stoudemire
In 2006, I founded Wonder Connection , made possible entirely by grants and donations that are routed through the North Carolina Botanical Garden at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. We use hands-on science and nature activities (like microscope inspections, flower arranging, and making frog slime) as tools to help children and teenagers at North Carolina Children’s Hospital feel better. Since 2006, we’ve worked with more than 11,000 patients. This year, our team found that 94% of patients experienced positive emotions as a result of our programming and 98% of patients said they had fun. That means we’re making them smile, which puts a big ol’ smile on my face, too!
Katie Stoudemire

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