Tag Archives: Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital

Michigan International Auto Show and Charity Spectacular benefiting Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital



This weekend is the Michigan International Auto Show and it has it all — from practical to grandiose and even downright exotic; if you love cars — or just pretty/shiny things — you will be in heaven at the #grautoshow16!

Car manufacturers from around the world bring their finest traveling displays with new vehicles – including sedans, vans, SUV’s, trucks, hybrids and sports cars to Grand Rapids. Not only is the Auto Show a great place to shop and compare options for every day vehicles, it is also the first opportunity for West Michigan residents to see many of the most recently released or “soon to be released” models!

On Wednesday, we had the unique opportunity of getting a sneak preview of this weekend’s show at the Michigan International Auto Show Charity Spectacular benefiting Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. The event supported more than 20 different programs at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. During the event, guests explored hundreds of new vehicles on display while enjoying a delicious strolling dinner and a live Wolverine Worldwide Fashion Show.

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The excitement started as soon as we walked into DeVos Place. James Bond theme music was playing in the background and as the archway (the #grautoshow16 version of the red carpet) opened up, we encountered our first car – the Aston Martin DB9 GT.  The car displayed is one of only 150 made, and is the official car used in the lasted Bond flick, Spectre. There was even a photographer on the ready to snap our pic as we struck a pose! Continue reading Michigan International Auto Show and Charity Spectacular benefiting Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital

Stress can destroy a 66 ton bridge. What about you?



You hear a ton about stress these days. What can you do to better manage your response to the tension in your life?

Dr. Steven L. Pastyrnak, Division Chief of Pediatric Psychology at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and Assistant Adjunct Professor at Michigan State University, will offer a practical approach to dealing with stress at a 90 minute event at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. “Understanding and Managing Stress” is free and open to the public.

“Everyone feels stress at some point or another,” said Dr. Pastyrnak. “I don’t care if you are a two year old kid or a 102 year old senior, you’ve experienced stress at various points throughout your life.”

Stress is something that impacts all of us.

“What I would say as a clinical psychologist who’s been working with kids for 20 years now, is that ultimately the more stress that people experience, the more other issues develop in their lives: whether it’s physical, emotional, or performance-related,” said Dr. Pastyrnak.

“If we’re dealing with younger kids, we see a lot of physical complaints develop as a result of stress. We see school performance impacted.”

But what about as we get older?

“Not only do relationships and school performance suffer, then occupational performance suffers. How they do at their jobs. How they get along with people. Things like that.”


At the Children’s Hospital for the past 17 years and in his doctoral dissertation, Dr. Pastyrnak has developed expertise in intervention directly related to reducing anxiety and stress. When children are being treated for cancer or some other type of other chronic illness, he and the pediatric psychology team identify the kind of stress a child is experiencing. They can develop recommendations and interventions to help reduce that stress.

Dr. Pastyrnak identifies three pillars of stress: physical, mental, and behavioral.

“First are the physical symptoms that go along with stress. That includes your stereotypical six year old who doesn’t want to go to school and complains of a tummy ache. You can have stomach pains. You can have butterflies in your tummy. You can have your heart racing a little bit. You can have tingling in your hands and your feet. You can have this whole sense of numbness that takes over your body at times. And that can be very much stress related.”

Those are some examples of physical signs. But what’s going on in your head?

“When your body is feeling stressed, then you have a tendency for your mind to try to make sense of why it’s stressed. And that’s where worries come from. And that’s where anxious thoughts come from. ‘Well, I must be stressed because I’m late on my rent. Or I must be stressed because I have a test the next day. Or I must be stressed because this part of my life isn’t going so well.’ And it’s your mind’s attribution to what’s going on that we normally think of as anxiety. We think of it as worries, basically.”

Thirdly, Dr. Pastyrnak addresses the behavioral component of stress.

“The younger kids are, the less likely they’re to be able to communicate their thoughts and their physical symptoms. But more likely, we’re able to see it through their behavior. So ultimately, think of stress as your body’s emotional defense. It’s what triggers your fight or flight response. So kids who tend to withdraw or avoid things, or kids who tend to be more explosive (have tantrums and act out) are experiencing some degree of stress.”

Adult behaviors are often not that different from what Dr. Pastyrnak sees in children.

“If you as an adult have ever avoided anything because you didn’t want to deal with it at the moment, that is a little bit of a stress reaction. You may have avoided it as a way to protect yourself.”

“The reality is that anything that causes a physical change to your body is identified as a stressor. It doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. But your lack of sleep. Your lack of good nutrition. Sometimes your lack of exercise. These are things that can create stress in your body. If you’re fighting off an illness, this can create additional stress in your body and it can come out in different physical and psychological ways.”

However, the doctor emphasizes that stress is primarily physical.

“But then, it becomes psychological or behavior afterwards. And that’s why some people are more prone to stress, and other one are less prone. Just because their bodies don’t respond physically the ways others do.”

“We all have a certain genetic predisposition to experience stress. If we have a very high predisposition and a low amount of stress, we still may have the symptoms of stress. If we have a low predisposition but a high level of environmental things going on, you may be stressed. It’s really that equation that determines how stressed we are in a given situation.”


Beyond sharing an overview of stress, Dr. Pastyrnak plans to make the session interactive.

“We’re going to do some breathing exercises. We’re going to do some muscle relaxation exercises. Anybody interested in coming along should leave their reservations and their tight clothing at the door.”

Although Dr. Pastyrnak has a wealth of clinical experience, he also has personal experience dealing with stress. He and his wife Jennifer (also a psychologist) have two teenagers: Anna, who is 15 going on 16; and Camden who has just turned 17.

“I have two teenage drivers at my house,” said Dr. Pastyrnak.

How is the doctor responding to that stress?

“Y’know, so far, so good,” he said.

Even if you’re not feeling stressed, learn to help someone who is. Attend this free event in room 168 of the Wisner-Bottrall Applied Technology Center on Fountain Street at GRCC from 1:00-2:30 pm on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. For more information, visit the GRCC Psychology Speaker Series web page (https://www.grcc.edu/psychology/20132014psychologyspeakersseries).

The June B. Hamersma Society’s 4th Annual Planned Giving Luncheon


Hospice of Michigan (HOM) made an exciting announcement at a press conference held on on Tuesday at Fifth Third Ballpark with the help of Mitch Albom, acclaimed sports columnist, radio host, author, screenwriter, and playwright. Albom’s play Ernie will be in Grand Rapids for a special two-week run in September as a fundraiser for this amazing organization, which is the original and largest hospice in Michigan. HOM cares for more than 1,000 patients per day in 56 counties, offering programs to make the end-of-life a dignified process for patients and their loved ones; educational programs for physicians and healthcare professionals; cultural diversity programs for end-of-life care; and research and education programs.

Following the press conference the organization hosted its 4th Annual June B. Hamersma Society Planned Giving Luncheon. Named for the founding chair of the HOM Foundation, this donor society recognizes those who have made arrangements for the organization in their estate plans. The lunch included donors, volunteers, and members of the community who each seemed to have a special reason for supporting the organization. Everyone who I spoke with had an experience with Hospice of Michigan, and as they recalled their experiences, there were smiles.

Dr. James Fahner, chair of the HOM Foundation Board and pediatric oncologist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital was there to welcome everyone. He then introduced John R. Smith, an emeritus board member for Hospice of Michigan, and former executive director of SECOM, South End Community Outreach Ministries, in Grand Rapids. He gave a very moving testimony to the care that his loved ones received at the end of their lives from Hospice doctors, nurses, and volunteers.

Following the lunch, Dr. Fahner introduced Jack Doles of WOODTV-8 who was very excited to introduce the guest of honor, Mitch Albom. As Albom began, it was clear that his remarks were straight from the heart. He talked of his relationship with his professor from college, Morrie Schwartz. His book, Tuesdays with Morrie, tells this story so beautifully, but to hear Albom tell the story himself is very impactful. (If you have never read this book I highly recommend it to everyone)

Albom and Schwartz were reunited years after Albom graduated from college, when he saw is former professor on TV, talking about what it felt like to die. Schwartz was suffering from Lou Gehrig disease, which completely debilitates an individual physically, but mentally they are unaffected. So Schwartz was able to talk about what the end of life was like from a first-person perspective. The professor and student began having regular conversations about this topic, with Albom visiting Schwartz for 14 Tuesdays before he passed away.

There was one particular line that struck me (and many others in the room) in his story. It was what Morrie Schwartz told Mitch Albom when he asked him when he was the one dying—and people were coming to see him and say their goodbyes—how did he end up being the one who listened to them?

Morrie said, “Giving makes me feel like I’m living.”

This man who was in his last days, who had every reason to be angry or sad or depressed or all of the above, was continuing to do what he had always done—teach. Continuing to help others figure out their life when his was nearing the end. He was giving them one last gift.

The story of Morrie Schwartz is the reason Mitch Albom is so passionate about the mission of Hospice of Michigan. This passion has led him to bring his play to Grand Rapids to help this organization raise money to fulfill that mission.

Ernie debuted in April 2011, nearly one year after Mr. Harwell lost his battle with cancer after 10 months. It played to sold-out crowds at City Theater in Detroit, just one block from Comerica Park. It is set on Harwell’s last night at Comerica Park, where he is about to give a “thank you” to the grateful city of Detroit. As he walks out onto the field, he encounters an unusual boy who is eager to know all about him. Harwell gives one final broadcast—the “broadcast of his life.” It stars Will David Young as Harwell, and the Boy is played by Timothy “TJ” Corbett.

Realizing that a loved one is in his or her last days on this earth is one of the most difficult things to experience. Hospice of Michigan’s doctors, nurses, volunteers, and staff members make this process much easier on the family and friends of the patient, removing the stress and worry of things that might take time away from enjoying their last moments with their loved one.

Tickets go on sale at Ticketmaster on Monday, June 25 and are $30 each. The show will take place at Wealthy Theater and there will be 10 performances from September 13-23, 2012.

On September 12, Hospice of Michigan will hold “Opening Day.” Tickets to “Opening Day” are $250 and include either a matinee (2:30 p.m.) or evening (8:00 p.m.) performance and dinner and cocktails at the Amway Grand Plaza in between performances. Following each show there will be an intimate conversation with Albom and the play’s actors. These tickets are available by calling (616) 356-5266.

To learn more about Hospice of Michgian, visit their website: http://www.hom.org/  And if you ever meet a Hospice employee or volunteer, be sure and tell them thank you for everything they do—these are amazing people.

LIKE them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hospiceofmichigan

The Official ‘Ernie’ Benefitting Hospice of Michigan Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ErnieThePlay