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Children's Hospital Patients Treated to Magical Theater Experience Complete With VIP Passes, Popcorn and Lots of Little Stars

Non-profit organization Reel Angels hosts Akeelah and the Bee movie for patients

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh patients will leave their hospital rooms and become VIP guests to a "red-carpet" movie premiere of Akeelah and the Bee at the hospital. The young movie stars, also known as Children's patients, will begin "arriving" at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 31, 2006. The movie premiere will begin promptly at 6 p.m.

Joining Children's patients at the screening will be J.R. Villarreal, 14, one of the co-stars of the new movie. Villarreal, who plays the character "Javier," will visit with patients and families and sign autographs.

Los Angeles-based non-profit organization Reel Angels sets up screenings of first-run movies at children's hospitals across the country. Reel Angels' mission is to benefit hospital-bound children by bringing family films to patients and families, creating a magical experience and giving them a respite from their treatments.

"We help them escape their surroundings, the gray walls, the ominous equipment and tinted windows," said Jessica Angel, president and founder of Reel Angels. "Even if just for a couple of hours, the kids get a chance to leave some of their pain behind, spend quality time with their families and smile at the stories and pictures unfolding before them.

Akeelah and the Bee is the inspirational story, co-presented by Lionsgate Films, 2929 Entertainment and Starbucks Entertainment, of a precious 11-year-old girl with a gift for spelling. Lionsgate Films generously made the film available for the screening at Children's. Also, Goosebumps Home Theatre and the Elf Foundation are providing the audiovisual equipment. The Steeltown Entertainment Project is a new non-profit organization that is working to create an "Entertainment Greenhouse" in southwestern Pennsylvania by connecting local and expatriate entertainment-related resources through educational and economic development projects.

"Special events like this are so important for a child's recovery process," said Denise Esposto, manager, Children's Child Life Department. "It allows kids to be kids, and provides them an outlet to escape from their treatments or ailments. It not only brings a sense of normalcy into their lives but it also gives them a fun and positive diversion."

Children's Child Life Department provides support, education and assistance to children, teens and their families who are adjusting to illness and hospitalization. Child Life specialists, all of whom have degrees in child development, education or child life, work to help children understand new experiences and feelings that may occur before, during and after a hospital stay. The professional staff is able to provide programs and services appropriate for children's developmental, emotional and educational needs in a family-centered care environment.

Learn more about Children's Child Life Department.

Editor's Note: Media should meet PGA staff in the main lobby of the hospital to be escorted to the movie screening. Media is welcome to attend; however, no filming of the movie will be permitted.

Melanie Finnigan or Marc Lukasiak, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, 412-692-5016,
Michelle DiRaffaele, Reel Angels, 323-549-4346, or

Last Update
July 22, 2011
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Last Update
July 22, 2011