Jackie Viener is the Fairy Godmother at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. Yes, you read that right; she’s the Fairy Godmother who comes to visit the kids who are staying in the hospital and who might need a little extra love and kindness (and magic) when they’re feeling scared or worried. She started volunteer as a storyteller in the hospital but then when she noticed that many of the children came in costumes, she was inspired to add her own.
For fun week, we wanted to talk to her about how she got started and why she keeps doing what she does.
Thanks for agreeing to share with our site how you reach out to kids at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. What character do you come as? Please tell us about her. Please share a little about your how you came up with the idea for your act.
I am a Fairy Godmother to patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.
I was first inspired to play the role of Fairy Godmother after reading a poem by Percy Shelley. These lines have stayed with me for years:
“Know what it is to be a child?… It is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into loftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child had its fairy godmother in its soul.”
Fairy Godmothers are the heart of fantasy. I’ve always felt that when children, especially those in the hospital, are listening to a story, they are transported onto a magic carpet, up out of their surroundings and into fantasyland.
What is the most rewarding thing about sharing your time and talent with kids who are hospitalized?
It’s going into a room with a sad child, and leaving with not only a smiling child, but a smiling mother and father behind that child. Just last week I walked into the room of a little boy who was not feeling well. It took some time, but I offered him a book from my cart. I told him he could pick any book he wanted and he could take it home to read when he was feeling better. His eyes pored over the cart and when he landed on Peter Pan his eyes lit up and he shouted, “Peter Pan!” I handed him the book and when I left the room he was smiling. It was one of “those” moments. I headed straight to the nurse’s station, smiling, and said, “Isn’t that just the very essence of why we’re all here?”
What is the most challenging thing about what you do?
There’s nothing particularly challenging about it. I just think it all comes naturally. Whatever “it” is just is there. Really… truly… I can honestly say I’ve never thought of any aspect of it as being a challenge. I just love it.
Is there one experience with a child that stands out to you?
Over the years, there have been quite a few, but there are two that come to mind quite readily. One involves a young man who was about 17 when we first met. He was very ill and battling a series of infections. He was an in-patient for weeks, and over that time he and his mother grew very dear to me. Before he left, he asked the Fairy Godmother for help with two wishes—that he would get better, and that he would one day become a marine. In the months after he left, he returned to the hospital for check-ups. Every time, he and his mother would find me and I’d give him a big hug. Earlier this year, in the middle of story time, I was reading a story to children in the lobby. Right there in the middle of story time, a tall young man dressed as a marine walked right up and gave me a hug. It was him, and I started to cry. Both wishes came true, and now he is preparing to return to Afghanistan.
A couple of years ago, an encounter with the mother of a little boy was also very special. Quite some time after he was discharged, they returned for a check-up and the mother went on a scavenger hunt to find me to tell me a story. Weeks after being in the hospital, her little boy was watching The Wizard of Oz. Glenda, the good witch, came on the TV and he ran right up to the screen and said, “I know her! She’s the lady that lives in the hospital.”
What is your “day” job or former job?
I’ve never had a job, been a volunteer for longer than most people have been alive. Through the years, I’ve served on boards, and I’ve been the president of several organizations.
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