Nonprofits Offer Kids In Hospitals Across The Country Opportunities To Continue Learning Through Free Online Lessons |

Starlight Children’s Foundation and CoachArt launch STEAM Education Program

LOS ANGELES, April 13, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Starlight Children’s Foundation, in partnership with CoachArt, has officially launched Starlight Online STEAM Coaching, offering chronically ill kids and their lessons online focused on science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). These one-on-one or group lessons are available to children ages 5-18 – free of charge – no matter where they are with an internet connection.

“The STEAM Coaching sessions were supposed to be four weeks. We’re on our third month with the same coach.” –Lacey Groff

Before the official launch, the team piloted STEAM Coaching with a small group of hospital partners, highly engaged in Starlight’s education program, comprising learning materials, books and supplies. The group gained valuable feedback about the program through the pilot from patients’ families, including Lacey Groffthe mother of 10-year-old twins Zoe and Chloe.

According to Groff, the Starlight Online STEAM Coaching was a rewarding experience for Zoe, helping boost her confidence in building relationships. Her twin sister, Chloe, also participated in the STEAM lessons.

Zoe is no stranger to hospitals. Born 34 weeks premature and with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) – a severe condition where half of the heart is underdeveloped – the family took a gamble on a risky open-heart surgery when she was just 4 days old. The surgeon told Groff that Zoe’s survival rate would be slim. Fortunately, the gamble paid off for the family. However, Zoe continues to battle through her complex medical journey, including two additional open-heart surgeries, several gut surgeries, a bleeding disorder, and functional rumination syndrome, among many others.

During one of her hospital visits at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, near her hometown, the child life specialist handed Groff a STEAM Coaching flyer and explained how patients are matched with vetted volunteer coaches teaching STEAM subjects, including baking. Zoe, who is often shy and quiet, got excited about the opportunity to take one-on-one baking lessons and registered.

On the day of her first lesson, Zoe ended up in the hospital. Unsure of how this arrangement would work, Groff considered canceling. However, through the coach’s creativity and the hospital staff’s support, Zoe continued with her first baking lesson.

“The two ended up making chocolate-covered strawberries. The nurses were accommodating, letting us use the microwave to melt the chocolate. It was overwhelming lessons in a good way, and Zoe was thrilled that we didn’t have to cancel the chocolate,” Groff said.

Canceling and postponing activities is something Zoe has gotten used to because of frequent hospitalizations and doctor appointments. But, for once, this was a comforting change.

As her condition worsened, Zoe was referred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota400 miles away from her home in Lincoln, Nebraska. In the ensuing days, she was admitted for functional rumination syndrome, a gastrointestinal disorder that causes vomiting. Unfortunately, this also meant that the twins would again be separated.

With the accessibility of Online STEAM Coaching, Zoe could continue her lessons in a different hospital out of state.

Like Zoe, her coach is also on a food-restricted diet for medical reasons. Having this shared experience bonded the two. To celebrate Zoe’s birthday on March 12, her coach adapted a recipe, enabling her to bake and eat a cake on her special day. It was truly a special occasion for Zoe, who dreaded a birthday without a cake and her twin sister next to her.

The program comprises eight one-hour long lessons, at times convenient for both the student and coach. However, it’s been such a positive experience for Zoe that they’ve extended the lessons.

“There’s been a tremendous connection between them, and it’s worked out so well,” Groff said. “The STEAM Coaching sessions were supposed to be four weeks. We’re on our third month with the same coach.”

According to Groff, Chloe’s experience started strong, but with her mom and sister gone for many weeks, they had to put things on hold until they came back from Rochester. With the family together again in LincolnChloe recently connected with her new coach and is looking forward to restarting arts and crafts lessons.

Adam GaroneCEO of Starlight Children’s Foundation, said, “Zoe’s story is an excellent example of how chronically ill kids and their siblings can benefit from Online STEAM Coaching. This program connects kids to coaches no matter where they are, engaging them in learning activities that they Choose while promoting creative problem-solving skills. We’re proud of this initiative and grateful for the partnership with CoachArt, helping us in our mission to deliver happiness to more kids like the Groffs.”

The Los Angeles-based nonprofits started the partnership over a year ago when Garone and his team looked to expand their educational program to help close the gap when serious illness disrupts extracurricular and academic activities for chronically ill children.

According to Garone, it was a perfect match. Starlight was looking to leverage CoachArt’s infrastructure matching kids to volunteer coaches, while CoachArt was looking to grow nationally through Starlight’s network of over 800 hospital partners. The group also expanded the curriculum to include other subjects beyond the original model that only offered art and athletic lessons. So, STEAM Coaching was born.

Greg Harrell-Edgethe executive director of CoachArt, said, “Thanks to our partnership with Starlight, more kids impacted by childhood chronic illness have more options to learn and grow together than ever before.”

Volunteer coaches can register here, selecting the subjects they want to teach. As part of the registration process, volunteers are required to complete a background check. In addition, the group provides lesson plans for the coaches and supplies for both the coaches and students.

“STEAM Coaching is a great program. It helps keep patients busy and engaged, so they’re not focused on being in the hospital or being away from siblings,” Groff said.

Local communities can also play a part in Starlight’s education program. Donations are being accepted on the website by clicking here or visiting

About Starlight Children’s Foundation

Starlight Children’s Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization that delivers happiness to seriously ill or injured children and their families. Since 1982, Starlight’s ground-breaking and innovative programs, like Starlight Virtual Reality, Starlight Hospital Wear, and Starlight Gaming, have impacted 21 million kids at more than 800 children’s hospitals across the US

To learn more and to help Starlight deliver happiness to seriously ill kids, visit and follow Starlight on Facebook, Instagramand Twitter.

Contact: Rick JardiolinDirector of Public Relations & Communications

424-245-3675 |

About CoachArt

CoachArt is a 501(c)3 organization that creates a transformative arts and athletics community for families impacted by childhood chronic illness. Since 2001, CoactArt has matched volunteer coaches with kids for free one-to-one or group lessons in arts and athletics, and provided all lesson materials. To get involved, please visit Follow CoachArt on Facebook, Instagram, Twitterand LinkedIn.

Contact: Ben CarlsonPublic Relations

415-497-9342 |

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SOURCE Starlight Children’s Foundation


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