“Jasper’s First Visit To The Hospital” by Art Kids 4 Kids

“Please consider donating to print more copies of this book for children at CHEOtinyurl.com/CHEOStorybook

How might we engage students in real world opportunities that empower them to use their talents, skills and attributes to nurture connections and build community?

A collaborative social innovation project developed by teachers, doctors and students:


Book Cover

Ashbury College students launch a collaborative interactive storybook project with

paediatric residents at The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario(CHEO) in Ottawa

to assist young patients to normalize the inpatient process.

The story behind the story:

This initiative began over two years ago (Nov. 2016) when two paediatric residents from CHEO, Sarah Farrow, MD, and Alexa Marr, MD connected with Ashbury College through a family friend. The doctors had an idea to educate young patients about common practices at the hospital to ease their stress and normalize procedures through illustrations. Thanks to that initial connection with Brian Storosko, Deputy Head of Teaching and Learning at Ashbury College, the CHEO Advocacy Initiative was established. The aim was to create a set of illustrations that reflect and normalize the experience and allow patient engagement in a developmentally meaningful way. The doctors were looking to create a set of illustrations that would reflect the diversity of experiences bringing the paediatric patients to the hospital. The illustrations would be available on the wards, in clinics, the waiting rooms and maybe one day for download by the patients at home. The doctors came to the school open to exploring all the ways that student artwork could be used to support kids at the hospital.


Teacher Team

Brian approached Ashbury’s art department head, Tamara Doleman with the opportunity as the doctors had requested “a few art students to create a set of cartoon illustrations with a team from CHEO.” Tamara Doleman was in the process of wrapping up her Master’s in Creativity and Change Management from SUNY Buffalo when she was presented with the proposal. Tamara asked me to join her in facilitating this exciting opportunity. I have a degree in Journalism, a background in publishing, graphic design, and I was beginning my new role as Technology Coach & Communications Technology Teacher at Ashbury College. This was also coincidentally my first year in Cohort21 (Season 5). We often discussed design thinking and creative problem solving, as well as other project and change management strategies.



Tamara and I had been working with a group of students as part of a Destination Imagination Team. An organization that engages students in project-based challenges designed to build confidence and develop creativity, critical thinking, communication, and teamwork skills. This group was keen to be involved in such an important partnership with CHEO, and they were enthusiastic about all the possibilities. Tamara and the Art Department at Ashbury College approached some student artists and writers to join the team and the “Research and Writing Team” was established.




The process behind the story:


On February 2, 2017, young patients accompanied Sarah and Alexa to Ashbury College to complete an empathy activity with a group of students that had been trained to use design thinking and creative problem-solving strategies to identify potential solutions.

We invited Dan Bigonese, a CPS(Creative Problem Solving) Facilitator to run the evening. Dan coached the students in the process as they interviewed patients about their experiences. The team began by clarifying the goal of the project by asking Sarah and Alexa question until they were confident to begin their research.


The students used a Customer Empathy Map to guide their interviews and documented the results of the patient’s unique experiences. Afterward, they consolidated their findings and began the ideation process with the pediatric residents and patients, once again clarifying commonalities and expanding upon concepts that required further exploration and explanation.

“What are all the ways?”


Dan lead them through a series of questions that allowed them to diverge and converge the ideas to think of all the ways we could achieve the objective: create an educational illustration to make the hospital experience more child-friendly. After careful consideration, we settled on the idea to create an interactive colouring storybook.


On April 18th, 2017,  the team toured CHEO hospital to sketch the backgrounds of the illustrations, strengthen the design concept and ask questions about procedures. The doctors provided the students with a list of procedures that they wanted to be included in the book and the students designed the basis of the storyline in order for the artists to begin their work. The tour included a visit to the Child Life Room where the students interviewed two specialists about their jobs.

To complete the tour, the students were able to meet Alex Munter, the CEO of CHEO. He was quite excited about the initiative and happens to be an Ashbury alumnus. The students asked questions about his experience running a hospital and his memories of school life.

Simultaneously, the team began to write the copy for the book. There were many changes as we all insisted that the book and the illustrations were to reflect the authentic experience of the patient.

The Design Team created a mockup of the drawings, while the research team consulted with the teachers and doctors to create a concept design to further develop the proof of concept. The resulting slide-deck included photos, research, copy and an initial concept sketch for every page of the book.

“Please consider donating to print more copies of this book for children at CHEOtinyurl.com/CHEOStorybook


The art team was anchored by two talented students who took on organizing and directing the digital drawings for the project:  Anastasia Goncharova (currently taking a B.F.A. at CalArts, California Institute of the Arts), and George Zhai (attending Sheridan College next year to pursue a Bachelor of Animation). The balance of the art team includes three recent graduates who went on to pursue majors in Media Production & Design, Life Sciences, and Economics. The remaining six Ashbury College students assisted in finalizing aspects of the book and completing the layout.

Designs transformed as the project evolved in order to properly reflect the experience at CHEO. The characters and backgrounds were drawn separately in order to allow for everyone’s style in be integrated into the book. There were many edits and decisions around how to make the characters simplified in order for all of the artists to draw Jasper in a consistent manner.

The various animal characters were to take on different personalities and attributes. The characters included Jasper, the main character, who is playing with his friend Jamie when he has trouble breathing. Big Bear takes Jasper to the hospital and they meet many others including; Nurse Lionheart, Doctor Elephante, Patty Porcupine,  Panda Bearington, Tech Storkley, Nurse Catsby, and Doctor Silly Monkey.

The students, doctors, and teachers decided that the book would not identify genders or race (English version only), as they wanted to allow kids to focus on the roles each character play. For some kids “Big Bear” might be viewed as a parent and for other’s a guardian. So this made editing text challenging as pronouns were eliminated.


The design team volunteered to create the layout of the book and solidify the overall appearance so that the digital drawings would be consistent. This involved using ProCreate (iPads), editing in Adobe Photoshop and compiling the layout in Adobe InDesign. This process allowed students to identify style sheets for formatting and create a unified product that was easy to read and understand.


Our first full draft and physical prototype was presented by Dr. Farrow and Dr. Marr to their supervising doctors, Dr. Lindy Samson (Chief of Staff and Chief Medical Officer) and Dr. Tobey Audcent (Pediatric Consultant, Division of Paediatric Medicine, Assistant Professor of Paediatrics, University of Ottawa) at the end of their paediatric residency. The paediatric residents also presented their research and the design experience on May 29th, 2018 to the Canadian Paediatric Society.

Dr. Farrow and Dr. Marr present the book project at the Canadian Pediatric Society Conference


Tamara Doleman also celebrated at this time, as she was presented with honour of being The Art Educator of the Year for 2018, from The Ontario Art Education Association.

Suzanne Lagacey and Dorota Trnik nominated Tamara Doleman and wrote, ”…her passions, her love of art, creativity and change reach outside the boundaries of her art studio and its students at Ashbury College to affect her co-teachers, her colleagues, her friends and even strangers who see her inspiring ideas and questionings in publications, on social media or in lecture halls.”

Concluding their residency, Dr. Sarah Farrow moved to Edmonton to work with the Intensive Care Unit. and Dr. Alexa Marr continued forward to work as a doctor at CHEO. The project continued forward as we were introduced to new paediatric residents for 2018-2019.


On September 17th, 2018, Tamara and I were introduced by Dr. Audcent to the new paediatric residents who were going to take over the next phase of the project with us, Dr. Jimin Lee and Dr. Ashlee Yang. At this point in the process, our launch date was set for November 20th and after discussion with the CHEO Foundation, we decided to postpone the launch to coincide with an event planned in April. On Children’s Book Day, April 2nd the foundation was hosting an event for patients to celebrate literacy and it would serve as the ideal time to introduce our project.

We were able to extend our development process to improve aspects of the book. The doctors suggested that we add in some specific common medical equipment to educate young patients on their functionality while being integrated into the story to enrich the content and allow for doctors to reference the experiences.

Child Life Specialist ran product testing with patients to see how they responded to the story. As a result, several alterations were made to the story in order to make characters more relatable and to clarify aspects of the book. This resulted in a variety of changes to allow for better flow to the story and an accurate depiction of a child’s experience. We also added a page about a specific Child Life activity that patients complete at the hospital called My Mindful Senses. This activity was sourced in the book and can be found on their website, along with other wonderful resources at Mind Masters.


At this point, the student team was also beginning to develop the “About the Story” section of the book, where we explain the process in a way that kids can understand. We choose a name for our student team and a logo was created for ArtKids4Kids. Students worked together on writing, drawing, and layout once again. As another element of the book was developed to showcase the collaborative process of creating the book.



Dr. Lee and Dr. Yang, with the help of the Communications Team at CHEO, were able to copyright and print the book, due to a sponsorship from Liuna, Laborers’ International Union of North America. The book was also translated into French and an additional version was created over the winter, so we could deliver a product in the two official languages of Canada. We hope to expand our offerings in the future to include other languages.


BOOK LAUNCH: April 2, 2019

The plan for the launch was coordinated with Team Lead of Creative Services and Public Affairs at CHEO, Patrick Moore. An integral member of the production team, who was able to coordinate all the attendees, logistics and sequence of the day.

The launch day was a celebration of our achievement, as we distributed the book we made to patients. We also gave out stickers and buttons to young patients as they participated in the CHEO Children’s Book Day event.



Our media representatives for the project are Ashbury College students; Art Director, George Zhai, Research/Author Kira Cheer and Artist Sophie Weider. Sophie is our primary spokesperson for the book, as a published author she is excited to have the opportunity to showcase the project and support children’s literature. Click here to read about her book, “The Girl Who Saved A Tree.”

While making the collaborative interactive, colouring storybook, this group of students has gained publication experience, as well as, the opportunity to explore the fields of communications and public relations as they are interviewed by CTV and CBC Radio.





Sophie Weider speaks to All in a Day with Alan Neal on CBC Radio


Once Upon a Time… This book was made for kids by kids. This interactive, colouring storybook was inspired by kids and families, authored and illustrated by Ashbury College high school students, and guided by teachers, pediatric residents, staff pediatricians and hospital staff. The story provides a child-friendly way of understanding common hospital experiences in order to ease the distress of children who visit the hospital.




“Please consider donating to print more copies of this book for children at CHEOtinyurl.com/CHEOStorybook

8 Responses to ““Jasper’s First Visit To The Hospital” by Art Kids 4 Kids”

  1. Kathryn Mitchell

    So proud of all you! Congratulations!!!!!

  2. Justin Medved

    Wow… Sounds like cohort 21 for students! This is an impressive project, process and impact. What an amazing experience for your kids.

    • Lisa Bettencourt

      Thank you Justin. This experience was like Cohort21, as there were so many people all working together towards a common goal. It’s truly amazing what we can achieve when we work together. I look forward to sharing more about the experience with everyone this weekend.

      A Cohort21 for students – The book project created a new community of students who all played their part and feel a sense of accomplishment for their contribution. This group likely wouldn’t have connected and some still have not met one another, as many have graduated. However, their ideas, talents and intentions moved forward with the project and they are now connected through the design thinking process. I’m happy this book is the glue that binds them all together in such a unique way.

  3. Jennifer Weening

    @lbettencourt – This is an incredible achievement. I am so inspired by the work that you did with these students to create an authentic product through the design thinking process – a product that will actually make a difference and an impact in people’s lives. I can only hope that one day I can create a similar experience for my students. I can’t even imagine the pride these students must have in their work. Congratulations, friend.


    • Lisa Bettencourt

      Thank you Jen!

      This was a passion project that was special in so many ways. The blog catalogues the logistics of the experience as we unpack the process. Tamara is an amazing educator to work with and we were able to combine our expertise together, as we facilitated the project with both the doctors and students to create this resource for CHEO. We are all so proud of the result and look forward to our next adventure as we discuss next steps and gather feedback from patients to inform our next actions. I can’t wait to see how things evolve from here.

      Let’s discuss more F2F on Friday.
      Thank you friend!

  4. Katie Weatherston

    Where can I purchase this book? It would be great for terminally I’ll young children. Which is who I want to buy a few copies for. Thanks!

    • Lisa Bettencourt

      Hello Katie,
      The copies are free of charge and can be picked up at the CHEO Kaitlin Atkinson Family Resource Library. Thank you for your support. Let me know if I can be of any assistance or if you’d like more information.

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