I started working on this concept over twenty years ago now, when I gave my prototype Kid’s Club unit to the young patients at Tampa Children’s Hospital.
Since then the size and costs of Kid’s Club amateur radio and morse code exposure units have gone down considerably. My current kid’s club unit fits into a fanny pack (except for the antenna mast) and consists of a Mountain Topper low power radio, end fed halfwave wire antenna, ARRL morse code practice course on CD, AA battery power supply, iambic morse key and collapsible antenna mast that extends to fifteen feet. Also sent home are an ARRL technician class study guide and the set of six amateur radio comic books and coloring books with each Kid’s Club unit. (These comic books are available for a free download. Simply search for ” amateur radio comic books from Icom America”). I will produce a complete and extensive video about how to use each item in a Kid’s Club unit. This video will be placed on the YouTube website.
The patient uses the unit at home and can either keep the unit or mail the unit back to the institution. Perhaps these units can be loaned to patients under a physician’s script. The physician would determine if the patient has a communicable disease and act accordingly. Or, perhaps the units can be gas sterilized? All of the items in the Kid’s Club units are small and easily disinfected with disinfectant wipes. This should eliminate any infection control concerns and issues.
We all know some of the following, but I wanted to comment on them:
I was diagnosed with cancer thirty years ago. I had convinced myself that I would die soon and amateur radio and morse communication was invaluable to divert my stress.
Children are fascinated by new machinery —with its knobs and buttons. It is easier to divert stress when children are exposed to new, different, fun activities.
I see the interest in morse weekly during my workshop speeches. I speak to dozens of school-children weekly about amateur radio and morse communication. They are astounded when they see and hear my ending message in high speed morse code. They invariably ask me how to learn morse code and how long it takes to learn it. They enthusiastically line up to practice morse after some of my speeches. I know my sixteen year old acquaintance who has vision issues and bipolar disease loves morse. I know the teenager I encountered with a stuttering issue loves morse communication. I have seen the interest in morse communication in a small, thin introverted teen who visited my teen center amateur radio station. My partner in this endeavor is blind. An autistic youngster in the ATOU program is also excited about morse code communication. Morse code communication combines the fun and challenges of video game networking with the utility of cell phone texting to communicate—without the associated issues.
Because of its nature, kids with health issues may be lonely, have low self esteem and obsess about their illnesses. I personally believe that amateur radio is the best, most enjoyable way now available to find new friends and decrease loneliness and divert stress. Finally, children with self esteem issues have a way of finding and keeping worldwide new friends in a way that is fun, wholesome, safe and unknown to one’s peers. Kid’s Club units can also help the parents and siblings divert the stress involved with illness.
Lastly, it is loads of fun to go hiking or to a local park, bring a Kid’s Club unit with you and see how many contacts you can make with four watts of power.
The following pictures show an opened and closed Kid’s Club amateur radio-morse communication unit to give to pediatric health care institution staff.
The opened unit shows the blue colored, deck of card sized, low power radio ( lower left corner), the black speaker(center), fifteen feet high when extended and seventeen inches long when collapsed mast (right side of the picture), AA battery pack (left center of the picture), wire antenna (top center of the picture– next to the bag), iambic morse code key ( just right of the speaker).