Children’s Hospital Michigan patients get hands-on STEM opportunity

DETROIT – For a few hours on Wednesday, a group of kids at Children’s Hospital Michigan in Detroit had a chance to forget about treatments and just be kids.

It’s all thanks to the American Cancer Society’s Big Dig.

The event is typically off-site, but organizers brought the event to the patients for the first time in Michigan.

Children were able to get up close and personal with heavy equipment.

“These are kids that are pretty much trapped in the hospital for long periods of time. Our cancer kids can spend months here sometimes even years,” said Kathy Donovan, President and CEO of the hospital.

Two-year-old Noah Danski is one of those children. Katie and Ryan Danski say doctors told them their son had a tumor in May. Since then, he’s had his right kidney removed, a hearty bypass surgery and Wednesday, he celebrated his last day of radiation. The Big Dig’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

“14 different rooms, and hopefully today (Wednesday), we’re gonna get to move to a rehab room, which will be one step closer to going home,” Katie Danski says.

Noah Danski hadn’t been outside in months, so the chance to explore outside with other children brings normalcy and hope to his parents and the medical heroes who have been by his side.

“It’s amazing; just to get him some fresh air and just kind of see the old Noah, again,” says Katie Danski.

While it was only for a couple of hours, it took years to make it happen.

The idea to bring Big Dig to the patients came about back in 2019. Lee Graham, executive director of labor management at Operating Engineers 324, worked with the American Cancer Society and said families brought the need to his attention.

“They’re like, What about the kids that are unable to be here today? We were halfway through our event and like the hair stood up on my arm and I’m like, ‘Oh, you’re so right.’” Graham says.

Through years of planning and the pandemic, they found a way.

“These are the same controls that build the city of Detroit and Michigan as a whole,” said Graham. “So we’ve got the carpenters here with hands-on. We’re talking about science, technology, engineering and math, so introducing these young kids to these new opportunities.”

Every smile, applause and high five made it all worth it.

“Sometimes these kids can’t see past their sickness and their disease; it’s so devastating to a family,” said Kathy Donovan, President and CEO of Children’s Hospital Michigan. “So this kind of stuff gives them a reality check of there is life outside of cancer, there is something beyond your diagnosis. And that’s what makes events like this so special.”

About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.