Being from Los Angeles and very connected to the entertainment community, I found myself working on many high profile clients right out of massage therapy school. My clientele consisted of celebrities, soap opera actors and actresses, and musicians. It was fun, fast paced and high paid. However, I always knew I needed something more meaningful.
Very early on, I had a great opportunity to provide massage therapy for those who would benefit most from touch, people who were considered to be “untouchable”. Men, women and children diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. At the time, there was significant stigma associated with this diagnosis. Hands-on care providers took enormous precautions, as many believed you could contract the disease via touch. Patients were isolated and left alone, out of touch with others around them. Slowly, I started referring my high paying celebrity clients to other practitioners. So, I would have more time to provide the care that I valued most.
Through a series of choices, I started to create my opportunity. Early on, I realized children were very much considered untouchable members of our society. So, I dug deep into research looking for anything that would relate to pediatric massage therapy. I read everything I could get my hands on, always striving to demonstrate the benefits of massage therapy for infants and children. Using occupational therapy, physical therapy, movement therapies, and pediatric mental health studies, I began to develop and share pediatric massage information with other therapists.
Together, with a group of dedicated colleagues, we worked hard to begin the first comprehensive pediatric massage program in the United States. There were many challenges from physicians, other colleagues and hospital administration. However, over time, with research and a strong “soap box” to stand on, it finally happened, massage therapy and nurturing touch was being provided in the pediatric healthcare setting.
Since that first pediatric hospital program, I have gone on to create more pediatric massage programs internationally, and started the nonprofit organization, Liddle Kidz Foundation, to support this work. I soon realized that as much as I valued the message, “All kids need nurturing touch”, how would others know about it?
A big choice I made about five years ago was sparked by my husband. My husband is a professional recording artist who just happens to own a tour bus. So, in the summer of 2007, I arrived home to Los Angeles, after being away again teaching and lecturing, and he proposed an idea. Let’s move into the bus, leave Los Angeles, and begin a new adventure traveling full time so you can fulfill your dream of sharing infant and pediatric massage all over the world.
This innovative approach has allowed me the unique approach to lecture, present and teach every weekend in a different location. I have presented in almost every US state, Canadian Province, Europe, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan. I have received invitations to present in Turkey, Nepal, Australia, China and India.
In addition to educational courses, and pediatric massage program development, the Liddle Kidz Foundation has an overseas outreach component using the power of touch to reach the world’s most vulnerable children with experiences of appropriate nurturing touch that they often lack.
With nurturing, compassion and touch therapy, children will develop and reach their full potential. We strive to address their critical tactile needs by working directly with their families and healthcare providers in pediatric hospitals, hospices, and orphanages to provide comprehensive nurturing services, consultation, education, program development and support. Liddle Kidz Foundation is committed to furthering the development of touch therapy services for vulnerable and underserved populations internationally. Through education and support we work to create replicable and sustainable change.
Every year, the Liddle Kidz Foundation organizes volunteer therapists to provide nurturing touch and education in other countries. Recent outreach trips have included bringing nurturing touch to orphaned infants and children in Thailand, Japan and Vietnam. In the fall of 2012, 20 volunteers, selected from over 1,000 applicants, will return to Vietnam. During their 18 day journey, volunteers will provide pediatric and infant massage in 14 facilities, provide care to thousands of children and educate hundreds of caregivers to continue this much needed therapy long after their return to North America.
Children who participate in our outreach programs often have the effects of trauma associated with being isolated and abandoned, as well as, a host of special healthcare needs and birth defects including AIDS/HIV, Cerebral Palsy, Hydrocephelus, Spina Bifida, Down Syndrome, Autism/ASD, Muscular Dystrophy, landmine survivors, children with visual and hearing impairments, mental, neurological and physical impairments. It is vitally important that all children receive adequate amounts of nurturing touch, but especially important for children with different abilities, who may suffer the many negative effects of isolation.
The success of the foundation has exceeded my wildest dreams. Each year, I train and certify hundreds of professionals to educate families in infant and pediatric massage, to work in pediatric healthcare settings, to provide massage in the neonatal intensive care unit, to use nurturing touch for children in hospice care, to touch safely without fear of spreading cancer and to aid every child under their care to grow and develop.
My focus is on developing new programs and reaching more people. I am happy to play a small role in seeing the number of those educated on the benefits of infant and pediatric massage increase exponentially beyond count. Just by default, making a positive difference in your life makes a difference in the lives of others.