VRforHealth is proud to announce the launch of our pioneering multi-partner VR pediatric cancer pilot, whose purpose is to assist children with cancer and their families. The program called VR 4 Kids, powered by VRforHealth, is hosted by the nonprofit, Maggie’s Wigs4Kids of Michigan and supported by nonprofits The American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO) and 18Loop, as well as three of the technology partners participating in the VRforHealth Directory community, TRIPP Inc., Little Seed, and Cleanbox. (Links to the sites of all our amazing partners are at the very end of the article. Don’t miss them!)
This multi-partner pilot explores how VR impacts the full spectrum of a child’s journey with cancer and to gather a minimum of 100 assessments, providing valuable metrics. We will be answering the question of how VR can best help pediatric patients with cancer, manage pain and anxiety during medical procedures and beyond. To this end, the pilot will provide VR headsets, applications, and disinfection technology to the pediatric population. The children and their caregivers will provide feedback on and evaluations of the program. The future funding of the adoption phase of these solutions at Maggie’s Wigs4Kids of Michigan will be achieved through donations and grants.
“Witnessing pediatric cancer pilot patients like Bree and Maddox, faced with an unending road of distressing moments, put on a headset and experience immediate awe, relief or distraction amidst life’s most agonizing circumstances, is the single most compelling reason to continue the work required now to ensure more people will be helped.”
Beth Savoldelli, Cofounder, VRforHealth
Origins of the VRforHealth Pilot Program in Pediatric Cancer, powered by partnerships
As a purpose-driven, female-led startup on a mission to inform and educate healthcare stakeholders and to advance the use of wellness and therapeutic VR, VRforHealth has been building a community of valuable VR technology partners and supporters. We seek, with their involvement, to identify ways to serve patients and lift all boats in the wellness and therapeutic VR spaces.
One example of our collaborative work is currently ongoing in the State of Michigan, where there are 500 newly-diagnosed cases of children with cancer annually. These children face long hospital stays, isolation from peers, and many painful procedures. There has been a long-standing need to reduce fear associated with treatment and to improve pain management while in the hospital and at home. That’s where the pilot project proposed by VRforHealth and hosted by Maggie’s Wigs4Kids of Michigan (MW4K) comes in. When Maggie Varney, Founder and CEO, learned that there are over 50 hospitals in the US piloting or implementing virtual reality programming to help their pediatric population manage pain during medical procedures and aid them in relaxation, she asked VRforHealth, if we could help the MW4K Wellness Center learn how to bring this novel solution to children they serve across the state of Michigan.
The pilot project is managed in close collaboration with MW4K. This grassroots 501(c)3 nonprofit provides wigs and support services to 250+ children annually, ages 3 to 18, at no charge. They assist children experiencing hair loss due to various medical conditions, including cancer. Together with a multi-disciplinary team, MW4K helps children heal emotionally, socially, and psychologically from the side effects of their health challenge.
I researched and found VRforHealth, who educated us on the VR solutions already available for children like ours — isolated and facing health challenges. VR allows these young patients to escape their reality. They can be in nature or have a virtual pet and have agency while in that environment. The first time we accompanied lovely, young Bree, as she accessed TRIPP on her new headset, I was in awe. I saw firsthand how TRIPP was immersing her in a positive world and helping her manage the stress and pain. I just love watching the video** of that moment. Regarding my concern about how to keep the headsets sanitary between uses, VRforHealth assured us by inviting their partner Cleanbox Technology to provide their scientifically-proven equipment for our immune-compromised kids. Thanks to the support of the VR community, our pilot is well under way!
Maggie Varney, CEO, Maggie’s Wigs4Kids of Michigan
VRforHealth Pilot Program partners come from our own growing community
VRforHealth pilot partners include 18Loop and their partner, the American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO), solution providers TRIPP, Little Seed, and disinfection specialists, Cleanbox Technology. We are working together to pioneer a multi-partner VR pediatric cancer pilot that will advance the deployment of wellness and therapeutic VR solutions at scale, to people who need it the most by providing valuable metrics enabling the partners to gain insights into their products or services.
In January, 2023 VRforHealth and MW4K launched the “VR 4 Kids” Pilot partnership, with a goal to explore and assess how VR can assist an underserved pediatric population, improving health equity through greater access to this technology. The first step in this project was to identify and vet the best-fit, qualified VR solutions in the VRforHealth community or beyond, to introduce and install. Specific criteria involved procuring age-appropriate headsets and apps, with careful attention to integrating a medical-grade disinfection solution– critical in serving immune-compromised children.
Meanwhile, MW4K began identifying best-fit device recipient families and putting into place procedures to enable the success of the pilot, including ensuring that the following was in place:
- Assessment forms to track recipient’s feedback on the VR solutions being piloted
- Proper device and media release recipient consent forms,
- A full-time, on-site LMSW (licensed master social worker) to work with the children and professionally facilitate the Pilot (to be hired).
The specific VR technology and solutions being piloted include MetaQuest2 headsets from 18Loop in partnership with TRIPP. To date, the remarkable generosity of 18Loop has made possible the donation of 6 MetaQuest2 headsets and accessories. TRIPP is a breakthrough wellness app and platform based on scientific research. Proven to drive engagement, TRIPP’s XR platform is delivering wellness solutions to Fortune 1000 companies, hospitals/clinics, and consumer households, through the use of interactive immersive VR and mobile experiences.
“While TRIPP has supported numerous research studies including an end of life pilot with cancer patients, being able to leverage our XR wellness platform in helping children undergoing treatment for cancer is a distinct honor and a privilege. Watching Bree put on a headset and transform her surroundings into her own personal sanctum of calm, wonder and peace brought me to tears. We are incredibly honored that VRforHealth selected us to participate in this pilot program, and we look forward to continuing to support these courageous and inspiring children through our XR wellness platform.” Nanea Reeves, CEO and Founder of TRIPP.
In this short, moving video, Bree describes what she is seeing and doing, as TRIPP enables her to navigate a “great big struggle”.
In April, VRforHealth secured Voyager — a clinically-driven, evidence-based VR solution for children under 13 years of age developed by Little Seed.
Cleanbox Technology is a global leader and a thought leader in SmartTech Hygiene. Cleanbox products use proprietary patented UVC LED engineering to easily, quickly, and safely clean many types of “Shared Items” to healthcare-level (99.999%) decontamination in 60 seconds.
“We are deeply grateful to Maggie and her entire team for caring for these wonderful, brave children. It’s inspiring to know that our small contributions are helping these kids. In all of my years in XR, this is the most impactful story I’ve ever encountered. I’ve done several social impact projects with XR but in terms of scale, impact and audience, this is by far the most comprehensive.” Lorenzo Vallone COO, Cleanbox Technology
The VRforHealth Pediatric Cancer Pilot will gather through 2023, a minimum of 100 valuable assessments that will be shared with our invited partners. This data will help gain a full-circle perspective and metrics on how VR impacts throughout the entire spectrum of a child’s journey with cancer including 4 assessment phases of recipient treatment initiation, ongoing, concluded, 3 months post.
VR technology is a powerful tool helping an increasing number of children and their families. Who will do the work to bring innovative VR companies, curated information, and use-case videos and stories to light– in one place, to lift all boats? Join our community at VRforhealth.com now to support this work and the incredible entities, nonprofits, and companies we partner who make it all possible.
Maggie’s Wigs 4 Kids of Michigan https://www.wigs4kids.org/
VR 4 Kids Program Info and How to Donate a Headset to a child in the program: vr-4-kids-program.html
Littleseed Voyager https://directory.vrforhealth.com/vr-wellness-therapy-apps/voyager