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By Tom Sowders, UNC Health Foundation

For the next three years, a part-time music therapist will work with patients at UNC Children’s, thanks to the generosity of two families. The Schmonsees and Reed families of Chapel Hill have combined gifts to support this three-year position.

“At age 3, our daughter Morgan had a medical emergency and spent a week in the seizure unit at UNC Children’s,” Cathleen Schmonsees said. “The incredible support we received from each and every staff member was imprinted on our hearts, and we are forever grateful.”

Musical instruments in Charles Goren Music Room at UNC Children's
Patients at UNC Children’s can use music therapy as a support for coping and healing – and to make their time in the hospital more enjoyable.

Supporting this music therapy position is the Schmonsees family’s “way of saying thank you,” Cathleen says. “Our daughter loved everything from the wagons, the toys in the atrium, to the therapy dog that visited her room. And we know that our support of the music therapist will continue to provide the same impact to so many families.”

Music therapy is the clinical use of music to accomplish individualized goals such as reducing stress, improving mood and encouraging self-expression. It is an evidence-based therapy well-established in the health community. Music therapy experiences may include listening, singing, playing instruments or composing music.

“We are so excited and grateful to have the opportunity to welcome a Board-certified Music Therapist to our Pediatric Therapies team,” said Amy Kujawa, Clinical Supervisor with Rehabilitation Administration at UNC Children’s. “Our vision will be complete when our music therapist calls the Charles Goren Music Room ‘home’ and the sound of children singing and playing music can be heard in the Play Atrium and in the halls of the Children’s hospital. We sincerely appreciate all who made this a reality.”

For the Reed family, the opportunity to support music therapy at UNC Children’s was also very personal. Debbie and Gray Reed, and their two daughters, Caroline and Deborah, made the gift to honor Gray’s late mother, Virginia G. Reed, who was a teacher and lover of music.

“We are making this gift in honor of our grandmother, who passed away January 2021,” Caroline said. “This perfectly combines two things that she was very passionate about, music and education.”

“It’s hard to imagine being in the hospital for months and months,” Deborah said. “But that’s the reality. This gift is a great way to honor our grandmother and all the music she got us involved in, but also to give back. Hopefully this is a light for all the patients and families who are able to participate.”

Gray Reed, who served on the UNC Children’s advisory board for six years, including one as chair, is excited by both the new opportunities this position will provide and the collaboration with another family with a passion for supporting young patients and their families.

“I can’t wait to get our family over there and see firsthand the dedicated room for music therapy,” Gray said. “We’re thankful to the Schmonsees for teaming up with us.”

For more information on supporting UNC Children’s, contact Keela Lyon, Senior Executive Director of Development and Communications, at keela_lyon@med.unc.edu.

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