When Napoleon struts his stuff in the outdoor play area at the Center for Medically Fragile Children (part of Providence Child Center), all eyes are on him – not just because he’s an alpaca visiting a hospital campus, but because he’s decked out in a bejeweled array of bright tassels, flowers and ribbons. He knows he looks good.
One of Napoleon’s favorite things to do is give kisses. Nuzzling the neck of CMFC resident Joel, Napoleon patiently waits for a slow smile as Joel feels the soft fur and ticklish face near his. Resident Amelia moves her face toward Napoleon when it’s her turn for nibbling alpaca kisses.
Long-time CMFC volunteer Michele Gray and her son J.J., age 15, were there to help the kids experience and enjoy their alpaca visitor. Michele has three kids, and all of them have volunteered at CMFC.
“I feel it’s important for them to work with other kids and to be of service,” she says. “It spurs great conversations at dinner.” There are about 210 regular volunteers at the center, which is supported by generous donors in the community. CMFC caregivers provide highly specialized, around-the-clock care to medically fragile children.
Activities such as animal therapy are important to the kids at CMFC, says Kerry Steeb, manager, Therapeutic Recreation and Volunteer Services. “We see a lot of smiles, and they get to experience tactile sensations and new interactions,” she says.
Camp PLAY stands for Providing Laughter and Adventure for Youth, and that’s exactly what CMFC kids experience each summer during the interactive, themed weeks designed especially for them. Napoleon, as well as Rojo the llama, are frequent visitors to CMFC during the annual Camp PLAY events. Napoleon’s recent visit was part of the camp’s Wild Kingdom week. Other themed weeks for this year’s camp sessions included Aquatic Discovery, Music to My Ears, Let’s Carnival and Around the World.
Watch as Joel enjoys kisses from therapy alpaca Napoleon, with the help of Napoleon’s owner, Lori Gregory: