Helping Sick Kids Get Their Magic Back

Helping Sick Kids Get Their Magic Back

There’s magic in the air in Chicago. Open Heart Magic, a local nonprofit organization, brings interactive bedside magic to children at 11 local hospitals. 

“Wherever there are kids who are struggling to turn the corner, our goal is to give them hope and some laughter and make them feel better,” says Mike Walton, founder and executive director of Open Heart Magic.

The 130 volunteer magicians complete a rigorous Magic University program, which teaches everything from sleight-of-hand moves to hospital protocols. Magicians also learn how to adapt tricks to meet the needs of all patients, such as asking a child who cannot speak to blink to select a card. 

Although magicians don’t usually reveal their secrets, these magicians teach children tricks. Participating in magic provides hospitalized children not only an escape but also a feeling of control, says Shira Miller, manager of child life and creative arts therapies at partnering institution Rush University Medical Center. 

“That sense of empowerment has such long-lasting impacts on their self-esteem and their ability to cope,” she says.


 Photo courtesy of Open Heart Magic. Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2022 print issue.