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The healing powers of play

The healing powers of play

By Jessica Pickens on November 28, 2017

For some children, a toy car is a plaything. But for a child with a developmental disorder, it can be therapy.

Each Christmas for 20 years, Spartanburg Regional Pediatric Rehabilitation Services surprises each patient with a gift that can assist with their rehabilitation. Volunteers and associates work together to select and wrap these presents for the yearly Pediatric Rehab Christmas party.

Terria Miller is one of these associates, who works as a speech-language pathologist. Some children cannot speak due to developmental delays or disorders that cause speech issues.

One year she got a patient a racecar track and cars. Before receiving that gift, he called cars “nun-nun,” and now he is able to say “car."

“I start getting excited around September when we start planning for the party,” Miller said. “I try to buy a toy that talks or makes sounds so that it interests the patients; sounds that they can imitate. To see how the gifts can help the children is amazing. It's not just for the child to play with, it's therapeutic.”

Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System's Pediatric Rehabilitation party is sponsored by the Judy Bradshaw Foundation and Spartanburg Regional Foundation. This year, 468 pediatric rehabilitation patients will attend the 20th Annual Pediatric Christmas Party on Saturday, Dec. 2. Since the party began, 6,026 patients have been helped by the Judy Bradshaw Foundation. 

Several weeks before the party, 23 of Spartanburg Regional's pediatric physical, occupational and speech therapists have a shopping party, each with their patients' needs in mind.

“Last year I bought presents for 15 of my patients,” said Jessi Sizemore, physical therapist. “We try to incorporate games and toys into our therapies. One year I bought a Stomp Rocket, where you step on a button and the rocket shoots up. It's fun, but also helps with balance, weight shifting and picking up feet.”

These gifts can work on fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, strength, sensory processing and self-care skills.

“I sometimes pick out Legos, because the patients have to figure out how they work,” said Lauren Hughes, an occupational therapist. “The children use their fingers and muscles to work to get the pieces together.”

Once the 468 gifts are purchased, therapists and volunteers wrap the gifts the next day — wrapping at least 30 gifts every 30 minutes.

On the day of the Christmas party, the pediatric patients gather with their families to celebrate with food, entertainment and visit Santa and Shelldon the Turtle, Spartanburg Regional's pediatric mascot.

“The children and their parents are always so excited. They can't believe the gifts and want to play with them right then,” said Sharon Caston, pediatric rehab manager. “Every year, our families are so shocked when they receive such substantial gifts, because they weren't expecting it."

To donate to the Foundation's Bradshaw Pediatric Rehab Assistance Fund, please visit For more information about Pediatric Rehabilitation at Spartanburg Medical Center, please call 864-560-6480.

"For some, it will be the best gift received this Christmas season," Caston said. "Mrs. Bradshaw's kindness leaves a great impact on these families and staff alike. She is proof that Christmas angels are real.”