Youngsters Bring Vitality to Workplace
By Rich McManus
Photos by Ernie Branson
On the Front Page...
Like a sort of magic bullet pharmaceutical, injected into the veins of a bulky patient, the 1,400-some children who participated in Take Your Child to Work Day 2002 at NIH on Apr. 25 brought smiles and vitality everywhere they went. They could be found working their transformation literally everywhere, from the lobby exhibit at the National Library of Medicine, to the 14th floor of the Clinical Center, to the Children's Inn and points in between. At each stop, NIH employees and volunteers hung out the shingle of openness and affection to a very special group of children our own. And from most accounts, the kids loved their parents' and caregivers' workplace.
Sure, there were really special exhibits, such as the tour of the Clinical Center's department of laboratory medicine, that were instantly oversubscribed the moment employees had access to online registration for the day's events. And on a day that started wet and rainy, it could be a challenge to travel, in only 10 minutes, from "Webs, Wires and Other Wonders" (an NLM exhibit that is so classy and well done that it rose easily to the level of the best Smithsonian exhibits) to a tour of the Children's Inn. But the one constant at all of the day's events was a warm welcome and an accommodating attitude; those who staffed the events went out of their way to make everyone's visit pleasant.
It was a day when the campus' snack bars and vending outlets did a good business. At the Bldg. 31 "blind stand," the manager was giving away candy to kids during the day. In the hallway outside of the building's cafeteria, children and parents waited patiently for a face-painting station, which was moved indoors due to the weather.
To accompany a child on this day was to see normally rather dour and business-like corridors turned into warmer, friendlier places. It was a reminder that the workplace tends to be sociologically straitjacketed, limited almost exclusively to adults 25-65. The energy, the noise, the bounce of kids was in most instances therapeutic. Undoubtedly, for some parents, it was the most draining and demanding day of the month a day when some adults probably made mental notes to thank their kids' teachers at the end of the school year.
One of the most welcome aspects of the day, from the kids' viewpoint, was the freebies given away at most exhibits. A partial list includes: a tennis-ball-size rubber brain (NINDS); a preprinted diploma-style certificate marking the occasion; band aids; hand lotion; the booklet Know Your Brain (NINDS); toothpaste and brushes; pens from NIDDK and the Work and Family Life Center; NIAMS and fire department pencils; CC EEO office pencil sharpeners; a set of disposable operating-room scrubs (destined to become either pajamas or part of next Halloween's costume); Division of Public Safety water bottles; fireman hats and stickers; NIAID yo-yo ball; an adhesive 2002 calendar strip (CIVIL); 8 oz. bottles of Medlineplus.gov water (who knew they were in that business?) and samples of NLM fine-art stationery.
Because kids were welcome virtually everywhere, not just at formal TYCW exhibits, some employees chose to expose their youngsters to real live NIH. My own kids sat attentively through the first half hour of a scientific symposium in Lipsett Amphitheater on the topic, "Neural and Behavioral Aspects of Early Language Development." Told that her daddy routinely gets to sit in on such high-quality presentations, second-grader Brenna McManus uttered a slogan she had hoped to paint on her face later in the day: "NIH rocks!"
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