Friday, June 27, 2008

Generous siblings help kids at Y-NH

W. Haven brother, sister raise funds, buy popular Wii for young patients

By Mariana Stebbins
Special to the Register
NEW HAVEN — When 11-year-old Angela Riehl of West Haven saw a news story about a hospital that uses a Nintendo Wii to aid children in rehabilitation, she knew she could help.
But when she and her brother Danny, 13, visited their grandfather, Ernie Riehl, at Yale-New Haven Hospital last September, her plan took on a new urgency.
"We would wander around and see all those kids sad and bored," Angela said. On the way out, she saw one of the toy boxes kept by the hospital and told her mother she would like to buy a Nintendo Wii for the children in treatment there.
With the support of her mother, Rosanna Riehl, an art teacher at Murphy Elementary School in Branford, and her father, Douglas Riehl, a planner at Lacey Manufacturing Co., in Bridgeport, Angela set her plan in motion.
Every week for about six months, while their parents bowled at a Tuesday night league at Milford Lanes, Angela and Danny used a water bottle to collect donations from other league members. Because Angela was a bit shy, Danny’s help was instrumental, the siblings said.
"I would do all the yelling," Danny said, while repeating their slogan: "Help the children, donate your spare change!"
By March, they had collected $425.
"I haven’t had loose change for months," their mother noted.
A mini fundraiser during Mix Monkey Day, when students dress in mismatched and backward clothes at Alma E. Pagels Elementary School in West Haven, added about $150 to the fund.
With the money they collected, the siblings were able to buy the video game console, a half-dozen games, four remote controls, and a set of "nunchucks," which allow a player’s movements to be reproduced in the game as it is displayed on a video screen.
Before their donation, the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital had only one Wii and two remote controls, said Ellen Good, child life manager at the hospital. Among the 201 pediatric beds at the hospital, about 75 are occupied by school-age children who will benefit from the games.
"And now we will also be able to share the games with other units in the system," Good said.
Playing the video games enhances the young patients’ recovery in many ways, Good said. It is something they do at home, so it normalizes the hospital environment while giving them something purposeful to do. It improves hand-eye coordination and encourages them to socialize.
In a departure from previous generations of video games, the Wii has motion sensitive controllers, which allow the players to use real hand and arm movements during many games.
"And it’s plain fun!" Good said.
Angela and Danny said they had that in mind when they chose the games for the system.
"We tried to find games that took two or more players, so the kids could get together," said Rosanna Riehl.
Among their favorites are "M&M’s Kart Racing," "Summer Sports" and the boxing game that comes standard with the Wii system
"Being able to help so many kids is probably the best reward ever," said Angela. "It gets them up and happy and a smile on their face makes me happy."
Although the siblings don’t know what their next cause will be, they said they might help the Hospital of Saint Raphael.
Mariana Stebbins is a New Haven Register intern.

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