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In The News: Our Music Therapy Program Featured on ABC7 News

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — We work to tell stories about people who are building a better Bay Area, which includes efforts to keep our kids happy, even when they’re in the hospital.

We are excited to share this ABC7 News Story about UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital’s music therapy program! It highlights our collaboration with children’s hospitals to provide pediatric patients with music therapy during their hospital stays. We are grateful to this news station for giving viewers a look inside our flagship program in San Francisco.

Our music therapists at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Children’s Hospital have provided over three thousand music therapy sessions since the foundation was established. 

Music Therapy Helps Patients and Families

As the news story explains, one-year-old twins, Zion and Destiny Bihns, receive music therapy at Benioff Children’s Hospital. Their therapy is part of a treatment plan designed to address respiratory issues the twins have been hospitalized for since their premature births. 

In addition to its numerous physical benefits, music therapy provides a reprieve from the stresses of the hospital environment for both patients and their families. 

“The music therapy is meant for the girls, but it also is a therapy for me,” said mother Brittany Bihns. 

Bihns gave birth to Zion and Destiny when she was just 25 weeks pregnant. She believes music therapy is helping improve her daughters’ physical health. “Sometimes, [there are] days where we don’t know if Destiny is going to make it or not. And when the music therapist comes in [and] sings, it makes Destiny’s heart rate go down, and her oxygen levels go up… It just makes me feel like she’s going to be okay.”

The Origins of Peterson Family Foundation’s Involvement in Music Therapy

The UCSF Benioff music therapy program is entirely funded by the Peterson Family Foundation. The original inspiration for the foundation comes from the family’s own medical experiences. 

“It was really tough being in the hospital; you didn’t have any kind of creative outlets,” said Eric Peterson. Eric was born in Santa Cruz, California, and diagnosed with leukemia when he was just three years old. Five years after his recovery, the Peterson family lost Eric’s mother to lung cancer. 

His father, Jeff Peterson, turned family tragedy into a way to help others when he founded the Peterson Family Foundation in 2001. To date, the foundation has worked to establish music therapy programs at UCSF’s Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, UCLA’s Mattel Children’s Hospital and Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London.

Using Technology to Bring Music Therapy to Young Patients

For their youngest patients, music therapists like Brianna Negrete are using a music therapy tool called the Pacifier Activated Lullaby (PAL). It’s a device that plays songs whenever the baby sucks on an attached pacifier. By using pleasant or comforting sounds, it provides positive reinforcement for sucking – a critical infant life skill. Caregivers can even record their own songs onto the PAL, so their baby can hear a familiar voice while in the hospital. 

Negrete said, “It really helps support feeding, which helps our infants go home from the hospital sooner.”

We have also created a recording studio at UCSF Benioff. This is a place where our patients can create original songs that turn the trauma of their medical experience into empowerment and expression. Making their own art is a powerful tool for giving personal meaning to this challenging time in their lives. 

We are so proud of our flagship program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, and look forward to future growth and development!

Want to learn more about what we’re doing? Sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest Peterson Family Foundation news. 

A Los Gatos family started a foundation that is giving millions to fund music therapy programs around the world, including at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco.

One-year-old twins, Zion and Destiny, were born prematurely at UCSF. They’ve had a complicated start to life, especially Destiny, who has significant breathing problems and will likely be in the hospital for another nine months.

But their days, which are mostly filled with tubes, beeping monitors, and doctor visits, have been made a little more joyful thanks to music.

Last year, UCSF’s three full-time music therapists sang and strummed their way through 3,000 music sessions with infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.

“The music therapy is meant for the girls, but it also is a therapy for me,” said Brittany Bihns, who delivered Zion and Destiny, when she was just 25 weeks pregnant and feels the music is helping her daughter physically heal. “Sometimes, there’s days where we don’t know if Destiny is going to make it or not. And when the music therapist comes in, sings, it makes Destiny’s heart rate go down, and her oxygen levels go up… It just makes me feel like she’s going to be okay.”

The UCSF music therapy program is entirely funded through the Peterson Family Foundation, the inspiration for which, comes from some of the family members own experiences at hospitals.

“It was really tough being in the hospital, you didn’t have any kind of creative outlets,” said Eric Peterson, who was born in Santa Cruz, and diagnosed with leukemia when he was three years old.

Five years later, his mother died from lung cancer.
So, in 2001, his father Jeff Peterson founded the Peterson Family Foundation. Since then, they’ve started music programs at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, and Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London.

“It’s something that really sheds a positive light on the hospital in general,” said Peterson about the music programs, who say they are seeing positive results. “It’s being seen in neurology, in rehabilitation, for mobility, for language, and different neuro necessities.”

To help their youngest patients, music therapists, like Brianna Negrete, are using the Pacifier Activated Lullaby or PAL. The device plays songs whenever the baby sucks on the attached pacifier, which provides positive reinforcement for sucking, a critical infant life skill. Caregivers can even record their own songs onto the device, so their baby can hear a familiar voice, while they’re in the hospital.

“It really helps support feeding, which helps our infants go home from the hospital sooner,” said Negrete.

The Peterson Family Foundation has also funded a recording studio at UCSF, where patients can play and record music. The studio is also used to record the heartbeats of children who pass away… a treasured keepsake for families who don’t get to bring their children home from the hospital.

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