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ASU students put power in play for kids at Phoenix Children’s Hospital

Fashion and journalism students unite to give these mighty fighters their own superhero costumes and tell their stories

Phoenix Children's Hospital Patient Brendan poses for his Power Play super hero fitting
March 28, 2019

“I have had the opportunity to participate in many different projects and activities at ASU, all of which were fantastic for my growth. However, this project feels more meaningful than almost any other project in which I have been able to participate.”

That is Patrick St. Clair, one of 12 designers in Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts working with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital on a special project for some special children. St. Clair and other students in the School of Art’s Fashion LabASU’s BA in fashion program provides a transdisciplinary foundation for students working across many segments of the fashion industry. and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Public Relations Lab recently united to share the stories of 12 young patients through fashion and video with a superhero spin.  

The patients, ages 3 to 17, met with the fashion design and public relations students last fall to share the unique “superpowers” they say help them cope with their health challenges.

Armed with inspiration and imagination, St. Clair and his fellow designers went to work to create “supersuits” for the kids. The designer teamed up with 3-year-old Phoenix Children's Hospital patient Kendrick, who had his own ideas of what his costume should convey.

“Kendrick was adamant that he wanted to be a supervillain from the beginning, but his mother really wanted to see him as a hero,” St. Clair said. “Because of the difference in opinions, I decided to make a reversible costume so Kendrick can be both a superhero and a supervillain. I also wanted to make sure that the outfit was wearable even after the project so he could feel powerful and super outside of just this one experience.”

Designer Sherry Jaw describes the “Dancing Daisy” costume she made for her client Addison as “a dress filled with brightness and joy.”

“It was a lot of fun for me to create the costume knowing how well it suits Addison’s genuine personality,” Jaw said. “When Addison tried on her costume for the first time at the photoshoot, her smile was so bright I could feel her happiness and confidence. It was like her superpower of spreading positivity was already showing.”

The costumes will be unveiled at the showcase “Power PlayThe word “power” signifies their inner strength to manage their illness, and the meaning of “play” is a nod to the playful nature of kids.” at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, April 5.

Phoenix Children's Hospital Foundation — Power Play preview

Video Courtesy: Cronkite PR Lab

Back at the lab

Elsewhere behind the scenes, the students of ASU’s Cronkite PR Lab formulated plans to help launch the event and share the powerful stories of each child. After hours of brainstorming and design over two semesters, teams landed on a logo and a name suited for superhero status: Power Play. They met with each child, created their superhero names and captured photo and video of the interactions between the patients and their supersuit designers.

Chad Bramlett, a member of the current PR Lab team, says projects like these go beyond just a career path; it’s about giving back to the community and making an impact.

“Power Play is, personally, the most impactful project I've worked on while at ASU,” he said. “Whether it's helping prep media advisories or developing social media visuals, all the work I've done benefits Phoenix Children's Hospital and its patients in a really direct way. I'll definitely take away the knowledge that — no matter what industry I'm working in — my skills can and will affect my community and individuals in a positive way.”

Daniella Rudoy, another member of the Cronkite PR Lab, said working on the video profiles gave her a glimpse into the personalities of each of the patients.

“I watched hours of footage and scrolled through endless photos of each patient,” Rudoy said. “I got to witness their stories unfold firsthand.”

Communities unite

Highlighting the medical care delivered to young patients at the innovative Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Power Play is also connecting the community with donors who wish to support the efforts of the medical professionals at PCH alongside their patients and families.

“Children facing challenging medical issues at Phoenix Children's Hospital often amaze us with their seemingly superpower ability to push through some of the toughest diagnoses and treatments,” said Steve Schnall, senior vice president and chief development officer for Phoenix Children’s Hospital. “Seeing the children’s power shine through the supersuits is an inspiration for all of us.” 

ASU’s emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration brought students from two schools — the Herberger Institute and the Cronkite School — together for a greater cause, but the experience goes beyond the classroom.

“I enjoyed getting to know these kids outside of their diagnosis,” Rudoy said. “Adri loves to dance, Ethan loves classic jazz, Addison loves her siblings and is always laughing, and William has a great sense of humor. They are all kids, and they love being kids. They don’t let their diagnosis or the struggles define them or deflate their smiles, and I think that’s something we should all learn how to do.”

St. Clair, who recently lost his own cousin to an aggressive brain tumor, says he felt it was fate to be paired with Kendrick.

“I was able to see what experiences like Power Play can mean to a patient and their family,” St. Clair said. “We had the opportunity to give kids battling illness a chance to do something different and to be seen in a different light. They gave us a chance to step outside of our own interests, create new relationships and celebrate the strength of these kids and their families.”

NBC 12 news anchor Caribe Devine will be hosting the Power Play event. For event and ticketing information, visit the Power Play website.

Herminia Rincon of ASU Media Relations and Strategic Communications contributed to this article. Top photo: Brendan, a patient at Phoenix Children's Hospital, poses at a fitting for his Power Play superhero costume. Photo by Cronkite PR Lab

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