Exceptional Care for Children

I began volunteering at ECC almost a year ago and since that time, I have spent over 125 hours with some of my new friends. Whenever I spent time with any of them, it’s the highlight of my day.  By the expression on some of my new friends’ faces or the words some of them can share, I believe I am a welcomed distraction in their life.   It didn’t take long to realize that when I’m at ECC I’m surrounded by Superhero’s.   

At ECC, I assist in play therapy, free play with the children, or sometimes I just hold and rock a baby.  In all cases, I’m given the opportunity to share my love with them, see them grow stronger, and even transition back to living with their families.  Each time I’m there, I witness courage first hand.  Each of these tiny souls musters more courage on a daily basis than many of us will have to find in a lifetime.  As I watch Navaya who couldn’t move long ago now adeptly scooting around in unique ways, I’m reminded of Spiderman who defies physics and leaps about.  As I reflect on Navaya’s progress over the last few months, I’m reminded of the Hulk who possesses super-strength.  Or when I think of Danny who beat all odds of survival in his first few months of life, I think he’s like a little Captain America who beat all odds and survived being frozen in ice.

From the cleaning staff to the nurses to the engineers and to the doctors who are specialists in their fields, all of these individuals appear to me to be part of a team like the Avengers working closely with the ECC residents to fight the physical and development challenges each face.  So many remind me of Iron Man who has a genius level intellect that allows him to invent a wide range of sophisticated devices to solve problems or Superman with his strong moral compass and desire to help all of humanity.   Every individual shares a common purpose to support these children and provide them with a normal life – the kind of life you and I take for granted.  Everyone who works there is selfless.  The focus is the child, and the environment is so encouraging.  I’m convinced that the positive “spirit” of ECC, the group that simply will not accept failure in any way, plays a large role in the healing and success the children have.

I’m not sure if I’m paying back, paying forward, giving or receiving, but I know that all of these children have touched my life and are somehow influencing my future and what I’m meant to do. I know that everyone is capable of doing something to make the lives of others better.   I wanted to share my story of ECC with hopes that you realize “A Superhero lies within each of one of us…all you have to do is put on your cape.”

Teachers Say Social-Emotional Learning Can Lead to Healthier, Happier Kids

As teachers, we know our jobs involve a lot more than academics.

There are students in each of our classrooms who are suffering through stress and trauma at home, be it from poverty, hunger, divorce, addiction, violence, a learning disability, or otherwise, which can batter a child’s sense of self-worth, or hamper their ability to focus and learn. Some of our students can’t seem to make friends with their classmates, or persevere through a difficult challenge.

Just as we know that every student has a unique academic learning style, we know that every student has unique social and emotional needs. We see firsthand what the research attests—that social and emotional development is critical to students’ academic and occupational success. The social and emotional “soft skills” like communication, collaboration, and empathy must be embedded into the class curriculum alongside academics.

We’re not the only ones who think so.

Earlier this year, the Rodel Teacher Council surveyed more than 220 educators from pre-k through 12th grade and from every school district in Delaware, including vo-tech and charter schools.

Nine out of ten Delaware educators agreed that social and emotional learning (SEL) is critical to student success and should be emphasized more in school. Around 97 percent of educators said they want more training on best practices in SEL, with 51 percent indicating they were “very interested.”

While educators could identify more than 40 SEL programs or initiatives happening in their schools, we know that they report lack of supports such as resources, training, measures and standards, which leaves our schools without strong coordination or an understanding of what’s working.


We’ve put these findings and more into our new brief: Educators Speak Up: Social and Emotional Learning in Delaware with the hope that they’ll contribute to the growing focus underway and help educators to work alongside families, policymakers, community members, and all education partners to address the social and emotional needs of every student in our state.

It will take all of us to build a positive climate for SEL in our schools and communities. But our work will lead to classrooms filled with confident, equipped teachers—and healthier, happier kids. Ask your child’s teachers and school or district administrators how they support whole child development in your school, and find out how you can get involved.

We hope you’ll join us by learning more at bit.ly/RodelSEL.

Providing Exceptional Care for Children

All parents want to provide the best childhood possible for their children. For some, this looks like giving their child the best education; making sure that they never want for food, clothing, shelter; and families coming together to celebrate life’s milestones. For other parents, it is the same, just with medical equipment and — potentially — a completely different place for their children to call home. This describes a typical lifestyle for children who call Exceptional Care for Children (ECC) home.

ECC is the first and only pediatric nursing home facility for medically fragile and technology dependent children in Delaware. A place where your child was initially cared for at area children hospitals and you relied on them to keep your child alive; they rely on ECC to keep your child thriving for their next steps in life. The medically fragile population we care for could spend weeks, months, even years here until they are able to transition home to live healthy, happy lives with their families. Some might even transition to an adult nursing home to continue their life-saving care. While their childhood is not typical, we strive to provide the best one possible despite their circumstances.

Providing the best childhood is not possible at ECC without the high-level of care provided by our staff. ECC staff members are not just defined by our respective job titles. We double as a helping hand to the mom who visits her baby and needs guidance, to being her source of comfort. We are friends to children who just want to have someone to have a dance party with or play a video game, and at times, we double as families for residents on holiday and birthday celebrations. As a unit, we happily provide these quintessential childhood experiences with lots of love, care, and support in tandem with residents families.

While every day is different at ECC, they are always filled with laughter, requests for the iPad, Dora the Explorer, and requests to go outside and play on the playground. They also just happen to include ventilators, walkers, and other adaptable equipment so that our kids know there are not any limits keeping them from living their best life possible.

To learn more about Exceptional Care for Children and the services we offer, please visit our website at www.exceptionalcare.org and view our 2017 video at https://vimeo.com/207042143.

Helping Your Kids with Shots and Procedures

Summer is approaching, and if you’re like many parents, that means upcoming physicals and possibly vaccines or blood draws for your kiddos are around the corner. This topic always seems to make parents cringe. Of course, we know the importance of vaccinations, but it doesn’t necessarily make it easier to watch your kid squirm, scream, and cry when the nurse comes in with the tray carrying the dreaded needles.


Thankfully, research doesn’t stop at demanding kids get vaccines; Drs. Christine Chambers and Anna Taddio are well-known Canadian pediatric psychologist who study pain and have worked to get the public message out that pain management in kids is important and relatively accessible, especially in the case of vaccines! The campaign, “It Doesn’t Have to Hurt” is an excellent resource for parents and can help you with your own children’s vaccines! Do you know currently, fewer than 5% of kids receive any pain management during vaccines? Parents can help change that number!


What Should You Do to Help Your Child?


For Babies:

  • It’s never too early- from your child’s first prick or poke, pain management helps set the stage for less fear later on. (Did you know that boys who have circumcisions without pain management have more pain at subsequent vaccines?)
  • Breastfeeding before, during, and after vaccines serves as a natural pain aid.
  • Sweet tasting solutions (sugar water) during vaccines help infants who aren’t breastfeeding or aren’t with breastfeeding mom at time of the shot
  • Holding baby upright, close to parent.
  • Be the advocate for your child- tell your doctor or nurse about this research and why you’re nursing during the vaccines!

For Kids:

  • Be honest with your kids; don’t use vaccines as a threat or punishment
  • If your kids are old enough, tell them that vaccines are medicine to keep them healthy!
  • Don’t say “it won’t hurt” or “don’t worry!”
  • Let kids sit upright, a supine or laying position may make it worse.
  • Ask about topical anesthetics or pain blocker such as Buzzy the Bee!
  • Rub the area of skin before vaccine is given.
  • Slow deep breathing helps reduce pain; try using a pinwheel or bubbles for younger kids to help guide the breathing!
  • Distraction works! Use an ipad, TV show, game, phone, to help kids put their minds on something other than the procedure.

Shots can be a pain, but they don’t have to be! Try some of these tips at your child’s next physical or vaccine appointment!


Interested in more information?

It Doesn’t Have to Hurt You Tube Video

It Doesn’t Have to Hurt Campaign

Meghan Tuohy Walls, Nemours Psychologist

Starting the Conversation

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, one of your first thoughts may be: How do I tell the children?

Adults often fear telling children that cancer has come into the family. We all want to keep the children we love happy and it’s hard to think of talking to them about something that will make them—and us—upset.

The thing is, children are very sensitive to what is happening around them. They can sense when something is wrong and the adults they love aren’t talking to them about it. Children also have very active imaginations. Not telling a child what the family is facing leaves them to imagine situations that are often worse than things really are. Young children may also believe that something they have done has caused the problem. Not being able to talk about their concerns can leave them feeling isolated, alone, sad or worried. Although telling your children about a cancer diagnosis is hard, it is important and necessary.

Here are some helpful tips for talking to kids and teens about cancer:

  • Be honest in answering their questions
  • Use simple language that your child can understand
  • Don’t be afraid to use the word cancer
  • Let children know it is ok to feel sad, mad, scared or confused
  • Let them know about expected changes in their routines
  • Let them know about any expected change in your appearance or behavior (hair loss, fatigue)
  • Don’t force information. Answer questions as they come up
  • It is OK to share your feelings with your children
  • It is OK to let your children see you cry
  • Give your children small age appropriate jobs so that they feel involved.


Resources & Support for Kids & Teens


Cancer can affect a family in many ways. There are changes in day-to-day routines and more responsibilities to be managed. Feelings of anger, sadness, helplessness, regret and fear may touch different family members at different times, making life unpredictable for everyone. Every family member’s experience is unique and different, often making it hard to know how to provide support to one another.


Cancer Support Community Delaware is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support groups and programs to cancer patients, caregivers and family members, including children, teens and young adults. All programs are led by licensed health professionals, at no cost to the participant. Programs offered range from Yoga, Chair Yoga, T’ai Chi, Zumba and Meditation to Journaling, Poetry, Art Therapy, and specialty programs such as Bereavement and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Services are offered statewide in Delaware, with the New Castle County office located in a serene homelike setting on four beautiful acres of gardens.


4810 Lancaster Pike

Wilmington, DE 19807

(302) 995-2850



Supporting Kidds provides a compassionate pathway to healing for grieving children and their families, and to empower the community to support them in the grieving process.

1123 Old Lancaster Pike

Hockessin, DE 19707

(302) 235-5544



For more information about Cancer Support Community Delaware, visit www.cancersupportdelaware.org.


Nicole Topkis Pickles is Executive Director of Cancer Support Community Delaware (CSCDE), a statewide nonprofit organization that provides psycho-social support services, including support groups, mind/body programs and educational workshops all at no cost, to people with cancer and their loved ones in all three counties throughout the state of Delaware. Nicole is a cancer survivor and was a member of the Board of Directors of CSCDE before taking the reigns as Executive Director in May 2014.

“Hey, you’re the blow dry girl!”

“Hey, you’re the blow dry girl!” I recently heard someone shout across the room. I was at an estate sale with my 10 year old son, who kindly reminded me “Mom, I think she means you.”.

Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t think of myself as the owner of a small business. That’s because for the past 14 years I had a successful career in banking. Successful, if you measure by title, or size of my team, or annual budget, or visibility to senior management. But it didn’t always feel like success. In my world, success meant long hours on conference calls. Success meant global roles, which meant global hours, which meant 9pm calls with Asia. Success meant good vacation time, but spending half that time struggling to get on the hotel’s wi-fi and responding to “we’re so sorry to interrupt, but it’s urgent” texts and calls. And for me this success meant paying someone else to take my kids to the park and the pool and put them to bed. It meant meals eaten from vending machines, and unused gym memberships. Success meant taking sleeping pills every.single.night  to calm a brain that was always racing with to-dos – doctor’s appointments, sports signups, work presentations, reviews to write, calls to return, gifts to buy, date nights to arrange. So while my resume said ‘success’, my day to day life screamed just the opposite.

With no end in sight, the question I was constantly asking myself was: Is this IT? Is this the life I intended to lead for the next 5, 10, 20 years? Is this why I studied hard and went to college and grad school – so that I could wake up to a hundred pre-dawn emails, go to bed bone tired every night, and wake up just to do it all over again?

Then about a year ago my colleague Linda shared a New York Times article about ‘the permission gap’. In a nutshell, it argued that if you’re looking for permission to make a major change in your life then, well, best of luck, sister. You will never get it. The world rewards us for maintaining the status quo.  The article struck me in a way other “follow your dream!” articles didn’t. Was I just waiting for someone to tell me it was ok to quit? And if they did, and I did, what would be next?

Then a few weeks later, on one of my frequent trips to New York City I was having a particularly bad day and got a blow-out between work and an after-hours function. The bar was hopping – champagne flowing, good music, and every customer leaving with a smile on their face and a spring in their step. Having just spent 10 hours in a dry office with security badges and white noise and small cubicles and petty politics, I couldn’t help but wonder – why couldn’t my work be like that? And it’s not hard to piece together what came next – 6 months later I opened my first blow-dry bar.

So how has life changed? While in some ways I’m ‘always on’ as a business owner, my decision is affirmed every day as I pick up the kids from school, check my email (down to about 10 a day, all after 9am), work out, crank up the music in the bar, or see a smiling customer walk out the door. And while this path is obviously not right for everyone, the idea of closing the permission gap – the gap between what you want to do and actually doing it – should resonate with anyone. Permission granted.

Social Emotional Learning

Academics are critical, but so is your child’s social and emotional development

By Paul Herdman, president and CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware

Back in the 1980s, when I was a teacher in one of New York City’s largest high schools, George Washington High School, I got a sense of what my students needed to grow up to be healthy adults, and it extended beyond traditional academics. They were freshman in high school, 14-year-old kids, who in many cases grew up alongside poverty, hunger, violence, and addiction. I wrote about my experiences in more depth here, but I realized early on, that for me to connect with them on their academics, they needed to be seen, to be understood as individuals, and to be challenged.

My job as their instructor was to help forge the connection between school and real life—and support them to discover that, if you push yourself and persevere through challenging experiences, you can tap into an inner-reserve of resilience and toughness that you can always rely on. I was in a unique position to marry their traditional in-school experiences with adventures outside our classroom walls.

During one curriculum unit that I called “The Wall,” we read Langston Hughes’ famous poem “As I Grew Older”—which speaks of the metaphorical walls of racism. I had my students discuss the walls and challenges they dealt with in their own lives. Then I took them to an actual 35-foot rock wall near the Hudson River, where they learned how to tackle a seemingly impossible task by breaking into a series of smaller steps, by communicating with and relying on each other, and by persisting through tough situations. Once we got back into the classroom, we revisited those personal walls, and now they had a new set of tools to address them.

Strong academics will always be central in our schools. But in a rapidly changing world, it’s becoming increasingly important that our young people receive a holistic educational experience that maximizes who they are as individuals—one that instills skills like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, empathy, and creativity. We also know that physical and mental health, nutrition, and exposure to the arts are also huge factors in the development of our young people. This is true of all children, and particularly those who come from challenging backgrounds.

This concept of developing the “whole child”—a phrase that’s often cross-referenced with “social-emotional learning”—is not a new one. Generations of educators have told us that the so-called soft skills mentioned above are all important ingredients in child development. Employers are also telling us the same thing. In Delaware, we’re excited to see a renewed focus and collaboration on social-emotional learning.

We at the Rodel Foundation are firm believers in excellence and equity for each of Delaware’s students—and we believe that nurturing students holistically is the basis for not only helping them become successful in school, but become good citizens and happy and healthy adults. However, these skills are not easy to measure or teach, so that is a challenge we hope to pursue in the coming months and years. I invite you to help us push our thinking and to learn along with us.

We are working with a group of Rodel Teacher Council members to study social-emotional learning in Delaware. This dedicated group of educators believe schools should focus more on social and emotional development of students—and they are working to elevate their sense of what’s needed. But it’s clear that educators cannot do it alone.

Parents, ask your child’s teachers how they support whole child development in your school, and find out how you can get involved. Check out the social and emotional development tips at www.parenttoolkit.com for every grade level.

If we want our children to thrive, we need to take a holistic approach to supporting them. This will take all of us — educators, families, and the community – rolling up our sleeves and building a bolder and broader definition of student success. I look forward to working alongside you.

Read more about social and emotional learning in Delaware at www.rodelfoundationde.org.

Podcast Pediatricians by Dr. Robert Walter and Dr. Matthew Gotthold


Follow them on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/podcastpediatricians/

When A Sale is Also A Service

Calling all bargain hunters: the Archmere Academy Garage Sale has long kicked off the local garage sale season – and while the weather outside doesn’t make you think “yard sale” we promise, it’s coming! This year will be the 45th annual sale at Archmere, and the parent volunteers have this event down to a science. Throughout the year, they collect gently used items donated by Archmere families and then spend one week cleaning, sorting, pricing and displaying the goods for sale.

It’s a huge labor of love but one that we assume gladly because it helps in so many ways.

1. The sale raises critical funds for our school, which offers scholarships and financial aid each year. Funds raised at our garage sale also enhance the campus and offer new experiences to our students.

2. Our sale offers quality items to the community at a fraction of the retail price – which helps families struggling to stretch every dollar but that might be too proud to accept a handout. The sheer quantity of goods is astounding. Two large gymnasiums are packed full of furniture, rugs, housewares, toys and baby gear, educational materials, costumes, bikes, balls, bats and other sporting equipment, lamps and other electronics, men’s, women’s and kids clothing and shoes, books, dvd’s, and more.

3. Anything that remains at the end of our sale is donated outright: This year our charity partners include the Ministry of Caring, St. Patrick’s Center and Bayard House in Wilmington, Faith Victory Christian Center in Claymont, Delaware Humane Association (spare linens and towels for cats and dogs), and Goodwill.

We are very proud to not only feature a terrific sale, but also support organizations that do good work in Wilmington and the surrounding communities.

The philosophy of the Archmere sale is “Reduce, reuse, recycle and everyone wins!” Archmere families are encouraged to declutter and pass on what they no longer need, volunteers spruce it up, and local families benefit from great stuff at rock bottom prices. Arrive early! Enthusiastic regulars line up early and are treated to well-organized, clean, high-quality items at super discounted prices. Sale organizers even get compliments on the friendly, helpful workers and the efficiency of the checkout. (Credit cards and cash are accepted.)

We hope you’ll join us to kick off garage sale season (indoors!) next weekend at Archmere Academy. Here are all the details: Archmere Academy Garage Sale, Saturday, March 25th, 8 am – 2 pm3600 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont DE 19703

Carol Thomson, one of the Garages Sale’s chairs is excited to get underway working on her 13th sale. She is an Archmere alum and parent of 2 grads and one current student. Carol loves the sale because of the good friends she has made working on it, and gets a kick out of seeing “one man’s trash become another man’s treasure!”

Our JCC Community

Like many busy moms, I juggle a lot of different meetings and schedules. So there I was in a work meeting at Panera the first time the Siegel JCC “got the call”, back on January 9th. Reading a text about a bomb threat at my local JCC and Early Childhood Center was the last thing I expected to see on my phone! The Early Childhood Center wrote to say that everyone was safe, the children had been evacuated, and that, because there was no way of knowing when it would be okay to enter the building again, we needed to come pick up our children.

I went through a full range of emotions very quickly as a mom, but I knew that my son was safe, and I knew in my heart that this bomb threat was a hoax, and that no bomb would be found. What I did not know was that, over the next two months, our community center would be the target of four bomb threats, including one just this morning (Wednesday, March 8) and that hundreds of bomb threats would go out over the phone to Jewish institutions all over the United States and Canada. Whoever is behind the threats wants to make life inconvenient for us, and wants to scare us. They won’t win.

This JCC is where both of my children have gone for preschool, and it is where my husband and I made nearly all of our best friends in Delaware. We were rolling stones before we got here, moving from one community to the next without setting down roots, but Delaware, and the community at the Siegel JCC are different than any other place we’ve lived. This place feels small in the best of ways — so warm, so friendly. It is our home, and the people there are our family.

Our Jewish Community Center is strong, and our members are steadfast. Since that first call came in, the staff has become incredibly adept at whisking the children in the ECC out of the building for ‘an adventure’ and we’ve begun to bring our car keys and coats with us to exercise classes, ‘just in case’. When I picked him up at the end of the day after last week’s bomb threat, I asked my son about his surprise off-site dance party that day. His only complaint was that he didn’t have the right dance moves for the music. We’re winning.

In times of crisis, you see who your true friends are, and it has been truly amazing to see the outpouring of love and friendship from school children at the Islamic Society of Delaware, Immaculate Heart of Mary School, from concerned community members, even from other moms on the North Wilmington Moms Facebook page.

To our many friends in the community and fellow moms who want to demonstrate to their own children and our larger society that we are stronger together, I ask you to take one of two possible steps in showing your support for our JCC: 

Show Your JCC Pride Day – Wed, Mar 15

Organized by members of the community, please join us in showing your support of the J by wearing a J t-shirt. The J will be selling #istandwiththejcc t-shirts at their front desks as a mini-fundraiser beginning on Monday, Mar 13 with shirts for both parents & children starting at $10.


Community Rally – Sun, Mar 19, 2 – 3 PM, Outdoor Campus

Organized by local nonprofit leaders, come out for this event next Sunday with your kids and strollers as we walk the JLoop together! And another opportunity to wear our shirts together as one community. If you have never visited the JCC campus, you’ll see that it is closer and bigger than you think!