"What is up? What is up? What is up y’all?"
It’s just another normal Tuesday night at Radio Lollipop on the 16th floor of Texas Children’s Hospital. Jason Williams or Jam Master Jay takes to the mike to entertain the kids in their rooms, but only after he’s rounded up the other volunteers to scatter them to the floor with their baskets overflowing with crafts and glitter.
"Head em up and move em out! Yeehaw!!"
The craft depends on the theme of the night. Retired computer specialist Myrna Fisch aka Queen Lollie gets to decide this theme. She’s been running the station for the last five years.
"This week is farms. We have a craft that goes with that and tonight we’re doing little pigs with curly little tails. Our song of the day is ‘Old McDonald Had a Farm.’"
Fisch’s favorite thing about Radio Lollipop is that it allows kids to just be kids — not to be known as their disease, or as the sick kid. Five-year-old Matthew has come several floors up to join the Radio Lollipop crew. Last year, he learned he had a soft solid tumor of the abdomen, spine and lungs. When he first came to TCH, having a chance to sing on air was the only thing that would get him out of his room. And as he joins the other kids in the station that evening with a smile on his face. It’s obvious his spirits are automatically lifted.
"Which kind of pool can you not swim in?"
"I don’t know which kind of pool can you not swim in."
"A car pool!!"
"Now kick, now kick…….."
To round off a typical Tuesday night at the station, volunteers, patients and parents dance to the Cupid Shuffle in the hallway in front of the radio station. Everyone is covered in glitter and you can spot the volunteers because of the silly hats they wear.
One volunteer is Debbie-Prout-Smith or Dingy Debbie. She is preparing the crafts for Wednesday and Thursday nights shows which air right after dinner. And even though it’s not always easy, she can’t imagine not having Radio Lollipop in her life.
"I’ve seen some kids grow up here and move on, I’ve also seen some kids pass away but the joy that we are able to bring to them every night that we’re here is worth it."
Debbie points out a patient she’s known for many years.
Brandi-Dawn Barger came to TCH when she was 18 because of a deteriorating colon.
Ulcerative Colitis claimed her brother’s life and kept her hospitalized for three and half years. She went through dozens of surgeries, fell into a coma and coded nearly ten times.
Now at age 21, she just finished her 67th and hopefully final surgery. Throughout her time in the hospital, Radio Lollipop has been her favorite escape.
"But I know these kids have no idea what’s going on and they’re terrified of this place. But coming up here, they feel like they can enjoy themselves and play, and I think it’s wonderful."
"We’re signin off this is Jam Master Jay saying good night; we love you guys; we are back tomorrow at the same time."
As Jam Master Jay winds things down and the kids filter out of the studio, he hands his mike over to Brandi-Dawn, who sings a song she wrote to finish out another successful evening at Radio Lollipop.
From the KUHF Newslab, I’m Edel Howlin.