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Helen DeVos Children's Hospital creates a 'virtual choir' to lift patients' spirits

"Sometimes in our lives we all have pain. We all have sorrow. But if we are wise, we know that there's always tomorrow." - Bill Withers, "Lean on Me."

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — COVID-19 has impacted nearly every facet of life, and for many families it's been very hard. Through job loss, health concerns, and social distancing, Helen DeVos Children's Hospital is reminding the community to stay strong.

After a post late last week on the hospital's Facebook page, the music therapy team came up with a creative idea called a "virtual choir." 

"Knowing that a lot of the patients and families at Spectrum Health hospitals are missing the visitors that they'd normally have at this time, we wanted to find a way we could still bring people to them," said Bridget Sova, who is a music therapist at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. 

Music has been used as a therapeutic tool for centuries. Researchers say music has been shown to affect many areas of the brain, including the regions involved with movement, sensation, cognition and emotion. Other studies show that a dose of music therapy can result in physiological changes that include improved respiration, lowered blood pressure, improved cardiac output, reduced heart rate and relaxed muscle tension.

On the post, Sova asked people to sing and/or play the song, "Lean on Me," which was first made famous by musician, Bill Withers in 1972. Participants were asked to have their performances video recorded then uploaded to YouTube so they could be retrieved by Sova for the project.

"We had 43 submissions and a total of 64 people singing the song," Sova said. "We got videos from California, South Carolina and, of course, from around the West Michigan area."

Earlier this week, Sova and her staff at the hospital began editing the clips together, using parts of the song from every submission. The video was finished Tuesday, went live on the hospital's Facebook page Wednesday morning.

"Many of the submissions were very creative," Sova explained. "Some danced during their video, while others did sign language or played instruments in certain parts."

Sova says she even reached out to members of the Grand Rapids Civic Theater and singers from local bands to contribute their talents to the project.

"The message is simple: Though COVID-19 has kept us apart, in reality, we are closer now than ever before," Sova said.

Lean on Me Virtual Choir (1).mp4

We asked, and the community showed their support for our patients at Spectrum Health. Videos were submitted from across the country to be united into one virtual choir. The message: Though COVID-19 has kept us apart, in reality, we are closer now than ever before. #InThisTogether

Posted by Helen DeVos Children's Hospital on Wednesday, April 1, 2020

“Music really does have healing powers, and we all could benefit from a smile right about now," Sova said. “My hope is that the virtual choir would lift spirits for patients inside the hospital and create a sense of community for friends and family who aren’t able to visit right now.” 

This is the second time the community has used "Lean on Me" to garner support. An a capella group at Grand Valley State University created their own video to spread messages of positivity during the challenging times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Check out these other heartwarming stories during the COVID-19 pandemic: 

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