PATERSON, NJ - Medical Missions for Children (MMC) is a nonprofit organization that has been serving the medical needs of catastrophically-ill children in underserved communities in the U.S. and in over 110 countries throughout the world, since 1999. The Giggles Children's Theater was established by MMC in 2005 at its home base on the campus of St. Joseph's Children's Hospital, with the goal of easing the suffering and enriching the lives of disadvantaged pediatric patients with uplifting live programs. The Giggles' motto is "Laughter is the Best Medicine!"
A sick, hospitalized child undergoes procedures that are painful and frightening, even to an adult. They are often traumatized by separation from family and familiar surroundings, feel anxiety about being in pain and are fearful of more pain. However, studies consistently show that the arts can play a significant role in a child's ability to cope with illness and in their recovery by addressing their emotional needs.
Because the Giggles Theater program is designed to brighten to the lives of sick, socioeconomically disadvantaged children, theater activities strive for artistic excellent and cultural relevance. Giggles shows offer musical performances, plays, puppetry, dance and storytelling from professional and student organizations. Using video conference technology, the children are taken 'out' of the hospital environment by going on live, interactive "virtual field trips". Recently, audience members visited the Manhattan School of Music, the Space Station with NASA, the Smithsonian Institute and enjoyed an underwater swim with the marine life in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Since its inception Giggles has been a success, but early on it was clear that there were many children in the hospital who were not permitted to leave their beds to attend performances. Usually these children were too ill: febrile, contagious or vulnerable to infection due to compromised immune systems. For this reason, the management of the hospital immediately agreed to provide Giggles with its own channel on the closed circuit TV system.