1 Darn Cool School: Michael Borum Brings Love, Hope to Children in Hospital Setting
By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
The smiling face and sunny disposition of Michael Borum have become features of Phoenix Children’s Hospital over the past couple of years, as bright as the florescent color scheme of the facility itself.
For some children in the hospital’s care, they can’t count on much else.
Borum, who has a master’s degree in special education from GCU, is one of six full-time staffers working at 1 Darn Cool School, which enables children to continue their schooling while hospitalized. Another GCU alum, Jennifer Bradley, also is part of the staff, helping children and their families with re-entry to their regular schools after discharge.
1 Darn Cool School, a one-room school in the heart of the PCH complex on East Thomas Road, began more than 20 years ago as an all-volunteer project at what is now Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix. Children between the ages of 5 and 19 are eligible to attend, and the school will visit them at bedside if necessary.
It’s work that seems ideally
suited to Borum, a gregarious type with extensive special-ed experience and a heart for sick kids. If he’s having a bad day, they’re never going to see it.
“There’s no way you can come into this setting and not give of yourself in love,” says Borum, 29, a deeply spiritual man who previously worked in the Phoenix public schools. “It’s honestly a calling. I don’t separate who I am when I’m here.
“You have to look into their eyes with hope and without fear.”
While acknowledging the serious challenges faced by some of the children, Borum says he tries to keep the mood light in 1 Darn Cool School. He plays the drums, he paints and he even gives haircuts. Recently he created a fun, do-it-yourself book based on the popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series.
He’s a big reason children fall in love with the place.
|Run to Fight Children’s Cancer|
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“Kids respond to him,” says Lisa Aaroe, Borum’s former instructor in GCU’s master’s program for special ed. “He’s very compassionate and a very humble person.”
The toughest thing, Borum says, is coming alongside a family when a child isn’t going to make it. His observation of how a teacher worked tenderly with his niece in Indiana, who had cerebral palsy before she died at age 11, showed him how.
“Comforting the families, those are the hardships,” he says. “We cry with the families and as a staff, too. But you get up the next day and keep going. Death and dying are part of life. You may go home sad, but you come back full of life.”
Bradley, 52, who was hired for the school on the same day as Borum and has a master’s in education administration, says the two of them have prayed together in a nearby chapel inside the hospital.
“I wear my lanyard as a badge of honor in serving these kids and families,” she says. “I can meet their needs in a way that comes simple to me.”
Borum says he’s in awe of the children and families he comes to know through the school.
“The parents have to go through so much,” he says. “The opportunity to be with them is something you have to take seriously. It’s an opportunity to love on their kids for the time that you have them.”
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.