23 Mar Love Bubbles Up Through Campaign for Hospital School
Last fall, Anna Abernethy combed through her mother’s things, the wheels in her head turning. She was looking for inspiration. After her mother, Judy, lost her battle with cancer, Anna knew she wanted to do something that honored who her mother was: a lifelong educator, on a constant mission to make others laugh and feel loved.
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Together with her family, Anna started Judy’s Bubbles, a foundation meant to spread love, light and joy to patients and families at UNC Children’s.
“She [Judy] really had the ability to light up a room, even when she was sick,” Anna said. “No matter how she was feeling, she was always determined to continue to put smiles on all of the doctors, hospital team, and other patients around her.”
Judy was a graduate of Meredith College with degrees in art and elementary education. She taught elementary students for more than 40 years at schools in Concord and Davidson, NC. She was also involved at All Saint’s Episcopal Church in Concord, where she served as preschool director, volunteered on the vestry and helped in the nursery during worship.
As her children were organizing her things after her death, Judy’s passion of working with children and personal mission to spread laughter and joy was more evident than ever.
“She always carried bubbles around with her, just in case she needed to brighten someone’s day,” Anna said. “If a child was crying in line at the grocery store, she’d pull some emergency bubbles out of her purse and change everyone’s tune. She had a way of working with children like I’ve never seen.”
Anna found bubbles in her mother’s purses. In her closet. In her drawers. In her coat pockets. Everywhere.
“She had more bubbles than I ever knew,” Anna said.
Judy’s passion for education and laughter will certainly be felt at UNC Children’s, and, in particular, at the Hospital School. The foundation hopes to raise $50,000 by the end of 2016 to support immersive learning experiences at the UNC Hospital School.
“Mom was in education for decades, and since the day she passed, I couldn’t get it out of my head that we needed to give back somehow. I had a thought come to me about giving to UNC Children’s, but at the time I had no idea there was a school at the hospital. It was the perfect fit to honor Mom.”
The UNC Hospital School, established in 1965, was the first accredited hospital school in the state. Today, the school is part of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School district and meets children’s educational needs through two departments – the neurosciences program, which serves students with psychiatric and emotional disorders, and the pediatric program, which serves students who are inpatients and those who visit the clinics on a regular basis. It has a permanent staff of 17 and helps more than 2,700 children annually. The school celebrated its 50th anniversary last October.
The support from Judy’s Bubbles will support the Academic Troubadours program, which provides students with opportunities to broaden their studies beyond traditional assignments.
“When kids are in school outside of the hospital, there are assemblies, field trips and cultural and arts experiences that they simply can’t participate in while they’re in the hospital,” said Nancy Yoder, UNC Hospital School principal. “Academic Troubadours brings in organizations, performers and professionals to give students a chance to learn outside of their textbooks.”
Past experiences included visitors from the North Carolina Zoo and Aquarium, a ukulele instructor, an East Indian Dance Company and a magician, among others. The programs typically take places a few times throughout the day and are broken up by age groups. Teachers strive to incorporate educational components into the programs.
“All of the programs we’ve put on have been versatile enough to meet various developmental levels for our students,” Yoder said. “And, many of the programs are great for the whole family – it’s always great to give families a break from the normal routine of a hospital stay.”
Funding for Academic Troubadours primarily comes through grants, and Yoder said it’s wonderful for the program to now have a dedicated funding source with Judy’s Bubbles.
“This support will really allow us to broaden the diversity of artists and experiences we’re able to offer students,” Yoder said. “And from what I’ve learned about who Judy was, this program is reflective of her passion. It’s a great fit.”
“Mom was always a child at heart,” Anna said. “Our mission revolves around putting all of your cares and worries into a bubble and letting them pop – that’s what we aim to do for families at UNC Children’s.”
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