“You have to use your heart to sing”

Patient Stories |


Riley cancer unit rocks with the sounds of Christmas cheer, thanks to a special young man named Ace.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

If he was nervous, he didn’t show it.

In his checkered pajamas, holiday hat and sparkly slippers, Ace “Diamond” Cook belted out Christmas tunes to an adoring audience during a special Christmas Eve concert on 5 West at Riley Hospital for Children.

With help from music therapist Caitlin Krater and art therapist Emily Slavich, Ace wowed the crowd of team members who gathered in the teen room on the cancer unit for the special performance.

Ace, 26, is a patient on 5 West who loves to perform. He spent the past several days practicing his routine with Krater, while clutching his pink microphone.

It was standing room only for the crowd of nurses, therapists and physicians, who clapped and sang along to “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” “Where Are You Christmas,” We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Mistletoe.”

“He put a smile on all of our faces,” said nurse supervisor Renee Desmarais.

She wasn’t kidding. The room positively rocked with joy.

“I think it’s valuable for the kids and staff that are here during the holidays to have someone go out of their way to put on this show for everybody,” said nurse Kathryn Jones. “He can still enjoy himself here doing something that he clearly loves to do.”

Ace showed his heart as he sang his Christmas favorites. After all, he said, “you have to use your heart to sing.”

After the show, he handed out Christmas toys to everyone as they thanked him for brightening their Christmas Eve at the hospital.

“That didn’t just make my day, that made my week,” said nurse practitioner Kris Kauffman.

Judging from Ace’s smile, the response made his day as well.

It was just the reaction Krater was hoping for.

“The point was for him to have something to look forward to and focus on while he’s here getting treatment,” she said. “This is a way for him to express himself, and it’s also about bringing people together and spreading Christmas cheer.”

After all, as Buddy the Elf said, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org