Eleven-year-old Allie Miller of Leesburg and 33-year-old Greg Pulaski of Springfield both lost their battles with cancer this past spring. The two were remembered Thursday, Nov. 11, at Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children, during the dedication of a newly donated, multimedia Fun Center.
At the presentation, Mike Miller, Allie’s father, recalled their first encounter with one of the older Fun Centers. “We were over in the clinic center, trying to make things go by a little better, and they wheeled in this Nintendo,” Miller said. “It really helped with her treatment. All kids just need something to get their minds off stuff and make them laugh.”
To Mike Nixon, Miller’s words were the “best endorsement for the Fun Center that we could hear.” Nixon, along with his wife, Susan, and Washington Capitals hockey player Peter Bondra, co-founded Scoring for Children, an organization sponsoring the Fun Center's donation.
The Fun Center is produced by the Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation in partnership with Nintendo of America. The new version was redesigned in 2002 and features a Sharp AQUOS liquid crystal television, a DVD player and a Nintendo GameCube video game system. The unit is on wheels, enabling it to roll into children’s hospital rooms.
INOVA FAIRFAX has seven of the previous version, which featured a VCR and the older Nintendo 64 gaming system.
The upgraded Fun Center is also more compact, standing at only 5 feet tall. “Its the perfect size. Our rooms are a little bit smaller,” said Carrie Bullard, the director of Inova’s Child Life program, which seeks to make young patients and their families more comfortable. The new version also opens up. “Now families can bring in their favorite movies and games, and make them feel more at home,” Bullard said
Mary Ellen Matheson of the Starlight Starbright Foundation pointed out the Fun Center’s practical importance. “It’s used as part of pain management."
Matheson mentioned studies that have shown that when the brain focuses on something else, "it reduces pain and anxiety."
Most hospitals that treat seriously ill children now have Fun Centers, Matheson said. Currently, there are more than 200 Fun Centers in the Mid-Atlantic region, consisting of five states and Washington, D.C. Starlight Starbright hopes to supply one Fun Center for every 10 hospitalized children.
Joan Pulaski, mother of Greg Pulaski, who died of cancer, said she wanted her son’s death to be as fruitful as possible. She said she took pleasure in seeing the money donated in Greg’s name was going to such a great cause. “Knowing Greg and his love for children,” she said. “I know how happy he would be.”