Teen aims to use hi-tech TVs to help sick children

PHOTOS BY JEFF GRANIT  Danielle Rosenthal, 15, of Freehold Township, displays her handmade crystal bracelets. The teen crafts jewelry to raise money to provide televisions for children hospitalized at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Philadelphia.  PHOTOS BY JEFF GRANIT Danielle Rosenthal, 15, of Freehold Township, displays her handmade crystal bracelets. The teen crafts jewelry to raise money to provide televisions for children hospitalized at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Philadelphia. 15-year-old over halfway to goal of $34,000 to equip Shriners Hospitals in Phila.

BY CLARE MARIE CELANO

Staff Writer

Danielle Rosenthal had no idea when she checked into the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Philadelphia that her presence there would eventually have an impact on other youngsters hospitalized at the facility.

She didn’t plan it, but nonetheless her hospital stay prompted her to undertake a mission, and she is relentless in her pursuit to see it through.

Her mission is to provide each patient bed with an individual television set. In order to fulfill this mission she will need to raise $34,000.

The story began last January when the 15-year-old Freehold Township teen was admitted to the facility for spinal fusion surgery to correct her scoliosis. For four years she had been wearing a plastic brace that went from her hips to under her arms between 20 and 23 hours an day.

The hope was that the restrictive brace would stop the curvature of her spine from getting worse. Unfortunately, it was not successful.

The medical facility is a completely free orthopedic hospital for children who come from all over the world to be treated. The hospital has never billed a family or asked for insurance in over 80 years.

While she was there for her weeklong stay at the hospital recovering from her surgery, she realized that there was only one television set for every two-patient room.

“This was difficult because television was something that distracted me from the pain I was having,” Danielle said.

“When I shared a room with an adorable 2-year-old who had to have her leg amputated, I wanted to watch my shows, but I knew it was better to watch what was more appropriate for her (something like “Sesame Street”). Also the nurse told my mom and me that sometimes children who don’t speak English stay in the hospital. It is very frustrating for a child who speaks English, and a child who doesn’t, to watch the same television set,” the teen revealed.

The youngster said she has learned from her parents that “to get is to give.” She said she received wonderful care at the hospital and now has a straight spine and doesn’t have to wear a brace any longer.

Working on her massive project is one way Danielle feels she can “give back” to a place she said has given her so much. It is her way to make a difference in the lives of others.

Danielle’s goal is provide a separate, high-quality, flat-screen television set for each of the 34 patient beds in the hospital, one that carries many cable stations and one that can accommodate different languages. Each television will be state-of-the-art and meet hospital requirements and will cost approximately $1,000. The television must meet health-care criteria and must include special grounding and safety features.

She hopes to raise the $34,000 for the televisions before she graduates from high school. Seeing what she had done so far, it’s a good bet that she will probably reach her goal long before that.

The Colts Neck High School freshman has been working since July, and to date, she has already managed to amass more than $20,000 in funds that have already been donated to the hospital.

Danielle has received some fairly large private donations, but in between school, homework, family and extracurricular activities, the teenager uses any spare moments to craft beautiful crystal and beaded bracelets, which she sells to raise money for her project. With the help of her parents, Brent and Mindy, and her three brothers, Scott, 23, David, 21, and Jordan, 12, Danielle has crafted over 150 bracelets and 50 ankle bracelets.

Initially Mindy had enlisted the help of family friend and local artisan Pam Berkowitz, Freehold Township, to help design the first bracelet. Since then, Danielle has created her own bracelet designs. They are made from a variety of beads, including Swarovski crystals, amethyst, turquoise, Czech glass, as well as sterling silver. The materials for the bracelets have been donated by her parents. Local artist Katie Lehman, Freehold Township, has also been instrumental in helping to acquire materials for the jewelry.

For every donation of $1,000 or more the donor will receive a plaque on one of the televisions.

Donations for the television project have even come from out of the area as well as locally. For instance, she received a $2,000 check from a Shreveport, La., resident who donated the money in honor of his daughter, also a scoliosis patient. The youngster had spinal surgery at Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia. The donor complimented Danielle on her project. His daughter had her first surgery in July. He thought at the time a second television in the room would have been helpful for his daughter. She had to receive a second surgery in October, however, and now in her room were two brand-new television sets that had just been installed. He said the second television made her hospital stay much nicer.

The donor’s daughter is also planning to make jewelry to sell at the gym where she is now a competitive gymnast. She will then send the money to Danielle to help what he called a “worthy cause.”

Mindy said that her research has shown that cartoons and other television programs that appeal to children may do more than just entertain them while they are sick or recovering. A study in Italy performed by Dr. Carlo Belleni found that watching television has an analgesic power even greater than active distraction.

The random study of children having a blood sample being drawn found that the children watching cartoons had a lower level of pain than those who either had no active distraction or those whose mothers tried to distract them during the procedure by talking, soothing or caressing them.

This research and evidence gave Danielle even more conviction about following through with her idea. Not only was it a great thing to have a separate television set, but it could also help make the child’s hospital stay a bit easier on many levels, including the easing of pain.

Danielle said she is happy to make it easier for children to stay in the hospital.

The dining room table in her township home is filled with bowls of colorful beads, crystals and everything else she needs to make her jewelry. With each one she makes and later sells, she is that much closer to fulfilling her intended goal.

Recently, Danielle, along with several other teens, was honored by the Noontime Optimist Club of Freehold. The organization recognized the efforts of the youth in their community and presented a program called “Kids Helping Kids.”

Theresa Diamond, who serves the Shriners Hospitals for Children as director of development, was in attendance at the Optimist recognition program.

Diamond said Danielle is so proficient at raising funds she has been asked by Mario Salvati, director of fiscal services at the hospital, when they can hire Danielle to work in his department.

“I cannot say enough about Danielle and her family,” Diamond said. “She is a dynamite young lady, and everyone here loves her.”

When asked what she thought of the idea when Danielle first presented it to her, Diamond responded that the hospital has many families that want to give back to the facility.

“We are very fortunate that way,” she said.

“When Danielle came to us, we thought it was a wonderful idea,” Diamond said.

“Danielle said she thought it would take several years to raise the money, but in less than one year she has already raised over $20,000. This is such a huge undertaking.” she said.

“Raising funds is the hardest job I’ve ever had,” Diamond said, “and Danielle is an inspiration to all of us here.”

Anyone wishing to help Danielle in her fundraising efforts may call (732) 995-7901 or e-mail at msrose49@aol.com. Anyone wanting to see Danielle’s work can attend the upcoming “Boardwalk Blowout,” which will be held at the Barkalow School, Stillwells Corner, Freehold Township, 7-9:30 p.m. on Jan. 19, where Danielle will have her own table set up to sell her bracelets.