Using Play to Build Trust

The NASCAR Foundation has been a proud supporter of the Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone since the launch of its Speediatrics Children’s Fund in 2016. Since the opening of its new facilities in 2018, the hospital has used the resources provided by The NASCAR Foundation to grow and prosper.

Since Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital-34th Street opened in June 2018 as NYU Langone’s flagship inpatient location, more than 5,400 children have received essential support from Child Life Services at its inpatient and outpatient surgical settings.

Through this partnership, The NASCAR Foundation has contributed to enhancing the quality and reach of Child Life services at Hassenfeld Hospital by funding consistent Child Life services in both the surgical and radiology areas.

This includes the support for Child Life specialists Cristen Rigatti and Sheeba Wajih who have each had a hand in preparing more 1,600 children for surgical or MRI experiences.

"I often hear children, family members and even colleagues say, ‘You saved the day!’" Cristen said.

"As a child life specialist at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital, I work with so many patients and each one is unique-from a 16-year-old gymnast in tears about how her spinal surgery may impact her dreams, to divorced parents with conflicting views about how to tell their five-year-old son of his two-year-old sister’s cancer diagnosis," Cristen explained.


The NASCAR Foundation has been honored to support Cristen in her work in child life services. And to even provide tools, like our Speedy Bear, to make her task of calming the nerves of the children before they enter a medical procedure by building trust with the patient.

"Thanks to support from The NASCAR Foundation, my colleagues and I can connect with family members before a child arrives at the hospital, learn about the child’s needs and create a custom approach built around each child’s favorite activities and history," Cristen continued.

Pediatric patients often have misconceptions about what might happen when they visit a doctor or hospital. These misconceptions can turn into overwhelming fears if not adequately addressed. Accurate, age-appropriate explanations help kids separate fantasy from reality, and with a little support, they are typically able to positively manage the experience.

Thanks to a little help from our Speedy Bear, for example, Cristen helped prepare Alex for an MRI procedure at the hospital. While Alex had been anxious all morning, clinging to his mother, Cristen was able to help build trust with Alex and allowed him to play "doctor" and learn about the MRI procedure in an age appropriate and fun way.

Speedy Bear Getting An Iv