Child Life Specialists

“Patients and families bring more than their medical needs when they enter the healthcare system; they carry all their experiences, traumas, worries, beliefs, coping skills, and support systems as well.” (Association of Child Life Professionals. (2021). (Emotional safety in pediatrics executive summary).

What Is a Child Life Specialist?

  • Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) are certified clinicians who are trained to focus on a patient and family’s Emotional Safety throughout medical experiences with the intent to promote empowerment, understanding, and lessen the possibility of any form of medical trauma. They are skilled at providing developmentally appropriate support, education, preparation, and therapeutic play opportunities to decrease anxiety associated with being in the hospital for patients, siblings, and loved ones. For more information visit the Association of Child Life Professionals website.
  • Lurie Children’s has Child Life Specialists located at our main hospital and our outpatient satellite locations who are there to help your child understand their visit (including diagnosis, procedural needs, inpatient stays) in a developmentally approprite way.
  • Child Life Specialists also help support and guide legacy making as well as provide support through bereavement for siblings and loved ones.

Contact Information

Request a Child Life Specialist by calling 312.227.3270 or asking a member of your medical team to reach out to a Child Life Specialist.

Pease email childlifereferral@luriechildrens.org for non-urgent needs or to connect with a Child Life Specialist.

Please feel free to fill out the caregiver survey prior to your appointment or visit to help us better understand how to support your child through their individual coping needs. Download the Patient and Family Coping Questionnaire. If filled out, please bring with you to your appointment or visit.

Meet Our Child Life Specialists

Our Child Life Specialists support different areas of the hospitals. Since their day-to-day tasks can vary greatly, please take a look at the information below to learn which Child Life Specialist serves which populations.

Rebecca Meyers, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3267 | rmeyers@luriechildrens.org 
Available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. — Child Life Manager

Angela Hyland, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3334 | ahyland@luriechildrens.org 
Available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. — Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (Main Hospital)

Anna Batz, MA, CCLS | 312.227.7568 | abatz@luriechildrens.org 
Available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. — 15 South and Clinical Care Specialist

Becca Mitsos, BS, CCLS | 312.227.3273 | rmitsos@luriechildrens.org   
Available Tuesday through Friday, 6 a.m.–4:30 p.m. - Surgical Services (Main Hospital) 

Beth K. Ryan, M.Ed., CCLS | 312.227.6398 | bkryan@luriechildrens.org | Eva Marianne Certified Child Life Specialist  
Available Monday through Wednesday, 7 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday, 7 a.m.–3 p.m. — Clark/Deming Outpatient Clinics, Lekotek Leader (Outpatient Center in Lincoln Park)  

Brittany Smith, M.A, FLE, CCLS | 312.227.3347 | basmith@luriechildrens.org 
Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.–7:30 p.m. — Child Life Practicum Coordinator, 20th Floor Acute Inpatient-Transplant/GI/Nephrology/Urology/PedSurg/Hepatology/Trauma (Main Hospital)

Caroline McLendon, BS, CCLS | 312.227.8278 | carmclendon@luriechildrens.org  
Available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.  — SID Clinic (Deming) 

Cecilia Gonzalez, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3942 | cgonzalez@luriechildrens.org  Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation Certified Child Life Specialist
Available Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday, 8 a.m.–6:30 p.m. — Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (Main Hospital)

Clare Johlie, BS, CCLS | 312.227.3338 | cjohlie@luriechildrens.org  
Available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. — 19th Floor Neurology

Elizabeth Moore, BS, CCLS | 312.227.3287 | eciesielski@luriechildrens.org | Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation Certified Child Life Specialist
Available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. — Inpatient Hematology/Oncology/Neuro-oncology (Main Hospital)

Emily Rogers, MS, CCLS | 312.227.2931 | erogers@luriechildrens.org   
Available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. — Outpatient Center in Skokie (every Monday, Tuesday and the 2nd 4th Fridays of the month); Outpatient Center in Lincoln Park (every Wednesday, Thursday and the 1st, 3rd and 5th Fridays of the month)  

Geanine Hunt, M.Ed., CCLS | 312.227.2731 | ghunt@luriechildrens.org 
Available Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m.–3 p.m. — Northbrook Surgery & MRI Center

Gillian Fiandaca, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3929 | gfiandaca@luriechildrens.org   
Available Monday through Friday,  8:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Stem Cell Transplant and Hematology/Oncology Beads of Courage (Main Hospital)

Jessica Van Voorhis, MS, CCLS | 312.227.8189 | jevanvoorhis@luriechildrens.org   
Available Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m.–3 p.m. – Surgical Services (Main Hospital)  

Katelyn Zilles, CCLS | 312.227.3266 | kzilles@luriechildrens.org  
Available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. — Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (Main Hospital)  

Katherine Roach, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3253 | kroach@luriechildrens.org     
Available Sunday through Thursday, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. — Emergency Department (Main Hospital)  

Kristin Wismer, MS, CCLS | 847.323.0763 | kwismer@luriechildrens.org
Available on a 7 day rotation, 2 p.m.–12:30 a.m. — Emergency Department (Main Hospital)

Leah Hoelscher MS, CCLS | 312.227.2267 | lhoelscher@luriechildrens.org 
Available Monday-Friday over email or phone — MRI Try Without Anesthesia Program days at the Main Hospital
Find a list of commonly asked questions about pediatric MRI sedation here

Lori A. Esch, MS, CCLS | 312.227.7925 | lesch@luriechildrens.org 
Available Monday through Friday, 6 a.m.–2:30 p.m. — Outpatient Center in Westchester

Lucy Howat, MS, CCLS | 312.227.1702 | lhowat@luriechildrens.org
Available Monday-Friday 6:30 a.m.–3 p.m. — Medical Imaging (Main Hospital)

Maegan Cobb, CCLS | 312.227.0218 | mcobb@luriechildrens.orgAvailable Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. — Pulmonology and Gen Med (Main Hospital)  

Kristen Santasier, MS, CCLS | 312.227.0218 | ksantasier@luriechildrens.org 
Available Wednesday, 11 a.m-5 p.m; 7 day rotation, 2 p.m.–12:30 a.m. — Emergency Department (Main Hospital)

Marlee Speak, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3294 | mspeak@luriechildrens.org | Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation Certified Child Life Specialist  
Available Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.–3:30 p.m. — Outpatient Hematology/Oncology/Neuro-oncology (Main Hospital)  

Natalie Sell, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3363 | nsell@luriechildrens.org 
Available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. — Facility Dog Handler (Main Hospital)

Rachel Belk, MS CCLS | 312.227.5095 | rbelk@luriechildrens.org 
Available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m — Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (Main Hospital)

Reghan Anderson, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3363 | randerson@luriechildrens.org
Available Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m.–7:30 p.m. — Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (Main Hospital)

Samantha Sawalski, CCLS, CTRS | 312.227.7115 | ssawalski@luriechildrens.org   
Available Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m.–4 p.m. — Outpatient Neuromuscular (Main Hospital)  

Shreya Patel, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3274 | shreyapatel@luriechildrens.org 
Available Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m.–4 p.m. – Medical Imaging (Main Hospital)

Video Resources

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       Beth Ryan, Senior Child Life Specialist, works with patients in the hospital’s Lekotek program, a therapeutic, play-based initiative that supports the development of children with special needs. 

Support Our Team

If you are interested in supporting our Family Services programs through monetary or in-kind donations, please visit our donations site.