Music therapy inspires pediatric patient to help others through Blake’s Miracle Festival

Music and Massage Therapy

By Sue Breding

My heart filled with pride when I saw her in December 2014. It was winter and yet this second-grader was all decked-out in a swim suit, goggles and a very determined look.

Aria Anderson started her first day of swim lessons and began her goal of participating in the annual Blake’s Miracle Festival’s SWIMkid-a-thon which raises money for Banner Children’s at Cardon Children’s Medical Center.

Aria looked at the lap pool and took a deep breath.  Then, the 7-year-old from Chandler, Ariz. jumped in and made it to the center before she stopped. She was too afraid to go to go all the way to the end. It wasn’t long, though,  before she grew stronger and more confidant through her weekly training sessions.

But for Aria, this is nothing new.  Overcoming fear is a skill she knows a lot about.

The first time I met Aria was in February, 2014 and she had braids and monkey pajamas.  She was lying in a hospital bed – a patient at Cardon Children’s Medical Center where medical experts were helping her overcome complications from brain surgery.

Aria had endured multiple stays in the hospital and weeks away from home.

But the one bright spot amid the treatments and technology were visits by Angela Wibben, a music therapist, at Cardon Children’s.  While playing instruments and singing may seem  like pure fun, it really helps children cope with pain and anxiety during their hospital stay.

“It’s someone who’s coming in, who’s not going to poke them and who’s there to have fun,” her mother, Tina Anderson, said.

During  her stays at Cardon Children’s Aria welcomed the various  forms of integrative therapy,  such as massage, pet and aromatherapy, that was available.

“All of these things teach children coping skills they can use for the rest of their lives,” said Teri Reyburn-Orne, Cardon Children’s Pain Management team manager.

Once out of the hospital Aria’s focus switched focus to other children currently in Cardon Children’s with the goal of participating in the Blake’s Miracle Festival’s SWIMkid-a-thon.

Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music to accomplish individual patient comfort goals with the help of a board certified music therapist when a child is in pain.

Research shows music therapy can be used to:

  • Reduce pain and enhance the effects of medication
  • Reduce stress and anxiety due to illness and hospitalization
  • Foster socialization and communication to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Normalize the hospital environment

Since 2006,  Blake’s Miracle Festival has raised about a quarter of a million dollars to make  integrative therapy free of charge at Cardon Children’s. Music therapy is usually not covered by insurance.  The Whitehead family started this event to create a miracle for other children after the loss of their precious family member Blake, who was almost two-years-old and fought a brave battle with leukemia. Just like Aria, Blake loved to swim and loved the music therapy he received when he was in the hospital and in pain.

To find out more about Blake’s miracle, please visit.