HARRIS HEROES

'Only Make Believe' helps patients at Bethesda's Children's Inn forget about their illnesses

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BETHESDA, Md. (WJLA) - At the Children's Inn in Bethesda, kids are on an imagination journey, with a little help from actors with "Only Make Believe."

The children are staying at the Inn while going through treatment at the National Institute of Health.

"The days are so hard. They go through so much here," said Ronny Kempenich, an education program coordinator at Children's Inn. "It's just nice to sit down, be silly, put on costumes and just have fun."

"Any time we have music, the kids love music," said actor Thomas Keegan.

It's especially fun because the kids get to take part in the show themselves.

"Our shows are half improv, and half scripted, so the kids who are watching actually get to take part in our show, which is really exciting," said actor

It doesn't take them long to get swept up into the show.

"They get so into it and it's so fun to watch," said actress Dorea Schmidt.

"I liked the car game and when the bugs went down," 5-year-old Liam Traynor said after a recent show.

The main focus is on making the young audience members smile - but the shows aren't just for children. Parents get a kick out of the performances as well.

"It breaks up a long day...it's pretty funny, even for the adults I think, said mother Amy Lupton.

"It's a nice break in between doctor's appointments and tests," said mother Malinda Zervakos.

"It makes it not a [completely] medical day," said father Sean Traynor.

Doctors say the fun and creativity actually helps the treatment process.

"We're dedicated to the principle that freeing the imagination is part of the healing process," said Tamela Aldridge, a doctor in the D.C. regional area.

"I love everything from the show," said 4-year-old Nate Lupton. "It's a fun day."

For more information on the Children's Inn and "Only Make Believe," visit them online.

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