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Hand-crafted Activity Magazine Has Six Year Impact

Strong Kids Newsletter

Chatter MagazineRenee Weinstein was in 6th grade at Fairport Middle School when a skiing accident resulted in her paralyzing her left arm. While she spent time recovering at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital, Renee’s three friends Abby, Elyssa and Sarah would send her activities, including word searches, crosswords, and more, to keep her mind off things. The girls had such a fun time coming up with the content they knew they had to create something similar for other kids in their hospital rooms.

The following year, in 2008, the four friends decided they would produce Chatter Magazine, a workbook made up of kid-friendly activities created by kids, for local patients at Golisano Children’s Hospital. “We wanted a name that was short but catchy and we thought the word “chatter” embodied the goal of the magazine, which was to get people talking,” said co-editor Elyssa Mountain. “Our hope was for Chatter to be a way for patients to interact with one another, doing activities together or submitting pieces together.”

What began as a way to help a friend through a difficult time turned into a rewarding experience and project that reached hundreds of sick and injured kids. The girls recently completed their 18th issue as seniors at Fairport High School.

In addition to having their hard work rewarded with the good feeling of helping fellow adolescents, the quarterly magazine doubled as their service project for Girl Scouts, helping them earn their Silver Award after just the first two issues. The girls coordinated with the Child Life staff to see where the magazine would be most useful and decided that the tween/teen audience would be the best fit.

“Chatter really fills the need for relevant activities for our teenage patients,” said Geri Sehnert, child life specialist in the Pediatric Surgical Suite. “We have books geared toward younger patients and then more adult magazines, so Chatter filled that gap perfectly.”

Chatter MagazinePages of the workbook were created on the computer, as well as by hand, and each issue had a different theme. Themes and titles ranged from Disney to spring to wildlife, making Chatter appeal to a variety of patients. Thanks to the help of Sarah’s father, John Humrich, former president of the MonroeLitho printing business, the girls were able to print 125 copies to be distributed to patients throughout the different pediatric units.

“The magazine grew in popularity and quickly made its way over to our outpatient clinic where patients receive chemotherapy, enzyme replacements, and more,” said Mary Tyson, former child life specialist in the outpatient clinic. “Our regular patients really got to know it and looked forward to the next edition. Many said it helped make their treatment go by faster.”

Each of the editors would take turns contributing different activities and the cover design. They would often ask their friends and classmates to contribute an activity of their choice. Current events, album and movie reviews, and mad libs were favorites among Chatter creators and its readers.

One of Chatter’s main guest contributors was Elyssa’s younger brother Eric, who also spent some time as a patient at the children’s hospital. In addition to providing mazes as an activity, Eric, now a sophomore at Fairport, also played a large role in the production of Chatter’s sports issue. “I saw how much work my sister and her friends were putting into the magazine and how much they enjoyed it and knew I wanted to get involved,” said Eric.

Eric hopes to continue Chatter now that Abby, Elyssa, Sarah and Renee have moved on to college. “I really liked being more hands on with the sports issue and look forward to having the chance to create more for other patients.”

“Creating Chatter over the years has been an amazing journey,” Sarah said. “I hope that Chatter brightened the day of any person that read it and it brought a smile to their face; I know I had fun making it.”

“The magazine was a nice way for the Child Life staff to establish a relationship with patients,” Geri said. “We would often complete the activities with them prior to a procedure. We are so thankful for the hard work and thought that went into each of the 18 issues the girls created. The time spent on each edition was obvious in the product that was generously shared with us.”

The printing business the girls used to produce Chatter Magazine is no longer in operation. If you know of a vendor who would be willing to donate the printing in full, or at a reduced rate, or a business that would like to sponsor the magazine in order for patients to continue receiving it, please contact Eric Mountain at nmountaincm@hotmail.com.