Local TV show

by David Hyland

Although largely confined to her hospital room by a kidney dialysis machine, Gina Rolfson still connects to almost 90 other patients through a unique television program.
“Kids Club TV,” a variety show aired four times a week over the closed-circuit television system at Fairview-University Medical Center, gets rave reviews from audiences of children such as Rolfson.
“We have a large number of kids that are captive in their rooms because they’re getting medical treatment,” said Lori Hanson, the show’s co-host and puppeteer. “This way they get to communicate with each other and with us and the whole hospital.”
Celebrating its five-year anniversary, the show was created to provide entertainment and attention for the almost 90 young patients at Fairview.
The 30-minute show is broken into about seven segments. The show features a game section in which the patients win prizes; in another, patients read the news over the air.
During a segment of the show called “Kid of the Day,” patients talk about themselves, their interests, their families and maybe tell a joke.
The show often features a variety of guests, from doctors telling jokes to science demonstrations by 3M researchers to exotic birds from the Bell Museum.
Co-host Tim Knaeble said the guests allow the show to bring the community to the children.
“We’re trying to spark the imagination and it’s something for diversion as well,” Knaeble said. “We want to get the creative juices flowing in these kids.”
The show originated out of a program that played movies for patients. Hanson said television is an important part of every child’s life in the hospital.
“We have a captive audience,” Knaeble said. “We wanted to be able to program things for the audience instead of just Days of Our Lives,’ and those types of shows.”
In addition to almost six paid crew members, about 30 volunteers help keep the show going. The studio is located in the basement of the Phillips-Wangensteen Building, directly behind Moos Tower.
Both Hanson and Knaeble work for the hospital’s Child/Family Life Services. The program was designed to support children chronically hospitalized and to foster normal development.
With a budget of $40,000 a year, the show is supported primarily by the Fairview Foundation. But that wasn’t always the case.
“Several times, we’d be on our last penny and the parents would step up to the plate,” Hanson said.
Parents say the show holds great value for the children. “It really lifts them up,” said John Rolfson, Gina’s father. “She really, really enjoys it and they don’t want to miss the show.”
As further testament to the show’s impact, this spring the show won Fairview’s Exceptional Contribution Award.
But for the show’s organizers, the biggest thrill is just entertaining the children.
“They’ve been through lots of icky stuff and this is their time to have fun for a solid half hour,” Hanson said.