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.