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A fund created in memory of Mary Jo Brown

The first thing everyone noticed about Mary Jo Brown was her smile. With that heartfelt grin, Mary Jo brightened the morning for bleary-eyed co-workers and calmed the fears of anxious families. For 35 years, Mary Jo was the “face” of the Admitting Department at Tufts Medical Center, warmly greeting patients and their families as she worked her way from the overnight shift to Director of Admissions. When Mary Jo passed away in January 2012 after a valiant battle with cancer, her family honored her memory by establishing The Mary Jo Brown Foundation, which is based on spreading smiles through acts of kindness, and the Mary Jo Brown Smile Fund, a lasting legacy benefiting the hospital she loved so much.

The Mary Jo Brown Smile Fund benefits Tufts Medical Center’s Child Life Services, whose indispensable programs are not covered by insurance. Wherever patients and families receive care, child life specialists have a role to play. They’re in the ER with toys and music to provide a calming influence for frantic families. They’re at the phlebotomy draw, diverting attention from scary needles with songs and guided visualizations. And since there’s no substitute for play to help children cope with stress, Ace’s Place, Tufts Medical Center’s incomparable 8th floor playroom, is stocked with books, games, toys and electronics for children of all ages, enabling child life specialists to further engage with young patients and their families. These are the critical services supported in Mary Jo’s memory. Through fundraisers like the annual Harbor Walk & Run and “Spreading Smiles” events like ice cream socials and pizza parties, the Fund and Foundation help Tufts Medical Center live its mission of placing patients and their families at the center of everything we do. As Mary Jo’s daughter Christina explains, “Mom treated everyone like family, but she had a special place in her heart for kids. She would be so thrilled to know that her generous and loving spirit lives on in the wonderful comfort and care provided by Child Life.”

Tufts Medical Center can claim a lot of “firsts” in its 217-year history. One of our proudest moments was the 1948 founding of the Child Life Program, among the nation’s first hospital activity programs for children. Today, Child Life Services are integral to all aspects of pediatric care…especially in the playroom, where kids can leave behind serious illness, if just for a while. Charitable gifts are the lifeblood of child life and our donors take great comfort knowing they are having an immediate and lasting impact on the well being of young Tufts Medical Center patients and their families.

Andrea Pappaconstantinou, Director of Child Life Services, pictured above, and her staff, are integral to helping patients like Sean cope with painful medical procedures, deal with extended hospitalizations and provide developmentally appropriate therapeutic play interventions.