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Foundation Provides Music Therapy For Hospitalized Children

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) It's hard to imagine anything more difficult than seeing your child in the hospital. One man who had to endure that ordeal is working to make it a little easier for parents and children. This week's Jefferson Award winner is doing it with the gift of music.

Jeff Peterson's son Eric was only three when he had to fight for his life at UCSF. He survived leukemia, while being treated for Type I diabetes at the same time.

To show his gratitude for Eric's recovery, Jeff set up the Peterson Family Foundation in 2003, first donating iPads and headphones. Today, the foundation pays for three full-time music therapists, and has built a music studio at the new UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, where children create songs uniquely their own.

"It gives them a chance to share their emotions... to be able to get something out that's hurting," Peterson explained. "I think that's what really got my heart and my soul saying this is, I've got to take this and move forward."

The foundation has expanded music therapy to children's hospitals at Stanford, UCLA, even Italy and London. Peterson is making it happen with grants and donations, and son Eric by his side.

"I don't think it was until about 4 or 5 years ago that I realized wow, like this probably could have really helped me when I was in the hospital and really struggling," Eric said.

Parents now experiencing what Jeff did find it's helping.

"It really just lifts her spirits, lifts her energy," Joy Lavigne said of her daughter. "Just physically I can see her perk up and she sort of carries this energy throughout the rest of the day."

Another mother, "Claudia," had a similar report about her daughter:

"Her oxygen level, her heart rate, you can see she's acclimated so much better so as far as her development it has made a really big difference."

"They feel good and I think it truly helps with their treatment," Jeff Peterson added.

So for bringing the healing power of music to children in the hospital, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Jeff Peterson.

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