By Heather Abraham

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – When 16-year-old Jaycee Park was diagnosed with a rare disease two years ago, she came from New Jersey to Pittsburgh for treatment at UPMC Children’s Hospital.

She ended up having five organs transplanted during an 18-hour operation.

All told, Jaycee spent three months in the hospital.

While doctors and nurses healed her body, she met and bonded with some other people who helped heal her spirit.

One of them was Kory Antonacci, the Coordinator for Children’s Hospital’s new Nora Grace Kaufman Center for Creative Arts Therapy.

“We have the real privilege to treat the heart and the soul,” said Antonacci.

The center has it all.

From a room dedicated to music therapy, complete with instruments and recording equipment, to a private art room and a space where kids can really get hands-on and explore the arts.

“We also have something called the ‘Creation Station’, which is a fully-interactive area with virtual reality painting. There’s a full-service theater with a sound system and professional lighting. We have a pottery nook with two pottery wheels. And we also have a creative writing corner,” said Antonacci.

The staff at the center see art and music as a way to help patients ease their minds during long stays in the hospital.

“Immediately, it kind of reduces stress because music and art are natural ways of expression,” says Art Therapist Katie O’Connor.

Antonacci says the dedicated space allows kids to express themselves as they navigate through a sometimes confusing and difficult experience.

“Our job is not to tell the child how to feel, it’s to help tell their story through music and art,” said Antonacci.

Jaycee is grateful for how the program helped her.

“It gave me that light, that strength, that extra strength that I needed to get through the day being here,” said Park.

Heather Abraham