Mary Barkey Clinical Excellence Award

The ACLP Mary Barkey Clinical Excellence Award is presented to an individual child life specialist who has demonstrated exemplary child life care and a high level of clinical skill. Each year, the Awards Committee and Board of Directors will consider nominations and select one recipient, with an award presentation at the ACLP Annual Conference.

2024 -Julia Mendoza, MS, CCLS

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Julia Mendoza began her career as a Certified Child Life Specialist at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas. She has continued to be an integral part of the team for more than 17 years.

Over the years, she has served as a child life specialist in several units such as the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the Inpatient Surgical Unit and served for more than 10 years in the Outpatient Pediatric Dialysis Unit.  In 2021, Julia advocated to adapt an open float position in efforts to prioritize child life services to Spanish-speaking patients and families. Julia currently serves as the Bilingual Child Life Specialist, and receives consults into all areas of the hospital- PICU, NICU, Heart Center, General Pediatrics, Outpatient Dialysis and Oncology.

Julia values the importance of ongoing communication and collaboration amongst the interdisciplinary teams. She recognizes the value of providing individualized care to all patients and families. DEI is at the forefront of her clinical practice, as she is a member at her hospitals Disparity of Health Workgroup where she works with administration to advocate for the needs of patients and families. She is an active member in her departmental DEI committee, and participated in forming the department’s annual competencies, which focused on DEI specific goals for the past two years. She continues ongoing reflective practice and integrates evidence based practice and research in her clinical work.

Mentoring and helping students into the child life profession has been an ongoing commitment for her. Julia has been a student coordinator for more than 14 years and has played a role in the development of their student program. Throughout her time, she was a member of the ACLP Practicum Task Force; she collaborated with student coordinators in the Houston Texas Medical Center and Southern Association of Child Life Professionals (SACLP). She has co-presented several “Child Life 101” sessions to the community. As an active ACLP member, she continues to stay up to date with current changes with students.

Julia was a Schwartz Round Panelist, co-presented in the Texas Pediatric Care Consortium Pedi Hope Conference, and co-presented in an ACLP webinar session. Julia was nominated for the National Compassionate Caregiver of the Year Award and was mentioned in the ACLP social media page for “Give a Wow”.  In the words of one of her colleagues, “Julia is able to build relationships across the generations of child life specialists.” Although she has years of experience, she enjoys learning from her peers. As a co-facilitator for her departmental group supervision, she is able to provide staff with an opportunity for reflection and growth.

From her roots as young child, Julia comes with the skills to be creative and adaptable. She uses these skills in her interventions and integrates them through play. She understands this to be an important role in a patients overall coping.





2023 -Shaindy Alexander, MS, CCLS

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Shaindy Alexander is a certified child life specialist working with PACT (Paediatric Advanced Care Team), the Palliative care team, at SickKids Hospital in Toronto, Canada. 
Before this role, she helped to develop and deliver quality child life care within haematology/oncology, burns and plastic surgery, and critical care. Shaindy advocated for this position to ensure that every child and teenager living with or around serious illness, death, dying, and grief has access to psychosocial support. In this role, Shaindy works primarily in the community, ensuring this population has opportunities to focus on life while living with uncertainty.  
Shaindy completed her degrees at McMaster University, including an undergraduate degree in Psychology, a diploma in Child Life, and recently her master's degree in Child Life and Pediatric Psychosocial Care. Another area of focus for Shaindy is supporting youth in their grief journey. As a group facilitator and clinical lead, she works at Gilda's club and volunteers at Camp Erin
Internationally, Shaindy has worked to share her knowledge and expertise by traveling to China to help develop and train healthcare professionals in delivering developmentally supportive care for children undergoing cardiac surgery, as well as to India with Operation Smile as a child life volunteer.
Shaindy has published research exploring the views of chronically ill paediatric patients on medical errors ("Everyone Makes Mistakes." Children's Views on Medical Errors and Disclosures, 2019) and the unique considerations in providing care to patients requiring mechanical ventilation (Special Considerations in the Nursing Care of Mechanically Ventilated Children, 2016). Currently, Shaindy is exploring the use of Virtual Reality Social Support for adolescents living with a serious illness.
Along with her passion for clinical work and research, Shaindy enjoys empowering others through education by sharing knowledge through workshops, presentations, podcasts (SickKids v. Despair – How Should We Talk to Kids About Dying?The Waiting Room Revolution), and teaching.  

Most importantly, Shaindy is playful. It is not uncommon to find Shaindy and her googly-eyed handy puppet 'Hermin' engaging in silly moments with patients or helping answer kids' questions on a hospital TV segment called Ask Hermin.

2022 - Lisa A. Ciarrocca, CCLS

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Lisa A. Ciarrocca has been a certified child life specialist for more than 30 years, starting out in a one-person program and advancing to Child Life Manager at The Goryeb Children’s Hospital (Morristown NJ). Lisa was responsible for the development and leadership of a system-wide child life program. Lisa's experience working with children, adolescents, families, and other professionals in and out of the healthcare setting enabled her to think outside of the box—expanding her child life role into the community and opening her own child life private practice, The Next Step: Partners in Psychosocial Care LLC (Fanwood, NJ), seven years ago.

At her core, Lisa is a true child life clinician. She upholds the value of working and engaging with other professionals on the healthcare team, including parents, to support a holistic approach to helping children and families cope with their medical and life experiences. She shares through storytelling that the value of this collaboration with the medical team, especially in a private-practice setting, is critical to helping children and families cope with all that takes place both inside and out of the hospital.

As a CCLS practicing in the community, Lisa feels it is important to recognize that families have diverse values and cultural beliefs and strives to incorporate this into her practice. In 2020, she completed the Registered Wonders and Worries Provider (RWWP) Training, a research-based curriculum for children and teens impacted by an adult’s illness. She is also a trained grief facilitator, Level 2 Reiki practitioner and, most recently, a children's mindfulness and yoga instructor. Lisa uses the skills she was taught to enhance those patients and families she sees in her practice. This initiative was a direct result of seeing a high level of anxiety of children and adolescents throughout the pandemic.

As a member of ACLP, Lisa has served as a past director and treasurer on the board of directors, in addition to serving on various ACLP committees. She is particularly proud of being an active member and former Chair of the community-based committee and having the opportunity to be part of the community-based think tank and ACLP strategic planning.

Lisa prides herself on being deeply committed to making sure that future child life professionals have the tools needed to continue evolving and practicing at the highest level. Her passion crosses over to her networking—not just with other child life specialists and leaders, but with students, interns, and those interested in the field of child life. She is just as driven and passionate about child life today as the day she started in the field.

2021 - Diane Dingley, MS, CCLS


Diane Dingley began her almost 40 year career as a child life specialist at Children’s Minnesota shortly after completing Wheelock College’s first graduate program in Early Childhood Education/Child Life. She has been at the forefront of developing patient and family-centered policies and practices at Children’s.  Diane pioneered child life services in hematology/oncology, neonatal care and high-risk pregnancy, cardiology, radiology, and children of adult patients. She embraces a strengths-based approach, and promotes play as fundamental to healing and coping. Working collaboratively with the neonatal developmental care committee, she established Wee Read, an evidence-based reading program designed to promote neonatal infant brain development and infant-parent bonding, and she uses bibliotherapy routinely in her clinical practice. Her partnership with music therapists has expanded music listening and music therapy services in the NICU and throughout the hospital. Diane holds the unique needs of siblings in high regard, providing direct interventions and facilitating SibShops and diagnosis-specific sibling support programs. She has been a champion of bereavement support as a founding and current member of the Bereavement Services Program, developing and facilitating end of life care, grief groups, memorial services, and, long before they were common, a weekend camp for children and teens.

Diane has authored countless articles, patient-family education materials, and training materials for medical and ancillary staff, as well as a chapter on school re-entry for an American Cancer Society pediatric cancer textbook for nurses. Along with a 39 year history of supervising and mentoring students, her coordination of the Child Life internship program led to ACLP accreditation in 2017. She partnered with a local community college in designing their child life assistant program and field experience at Children’s MN.

Diane has contributed to the growth of our profession from its early stages in the Association for the Care of Children’s Health by contributing to the Values statement at the CLC’s Mission, Vision and Values conference, presenting at multiple CLC/ACLP conferences, reviewing abstracts, and actively engaging in the internship coordinator’s forum. She is known for modeling and teaching best practices to new and seasoned child life professionals and as a tireless advocate for exceptional psychosocial care.

2020 - Erin Munn, MS, CCLS


Throughout Erin's career, she has maintained a commitment to the professional development of child life students and staff, with highlights including her roles as a child life clinical specialist, interim staff supervisor, internship coordinator, and co-chair of the Internship Task Force for the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP), which developed standardized curriculum modules and a supervisor manual for child life internship programs. In addition to numerous presentations at conferences in the United States, Erin has been an invited speaker for conferences and education series in New Zealand, the Philippines, and in the Balkans.  During her time at Johns Hopkins, Erin helped to co-author a training curriculum titled Child-centered health care trainer manual: A 5-day inservice training course for pediatric health care workers and collaborated with fellow authors to pilot the training for healthcare providers at a pediatric hospital in Macedonia before implementing the training for representatives of 10 hospitals in Serbia.  Erin has been an active member of ACLP since 1995 and is a former President of the organization. Additional highlights of her leadership within ACLP include serving as a Board liaison for the Clinical Supervision Task Force, as chairperson for the Conference Planning Committee and the Child Life Certifying Committee, and the Internship Task Force, and as an inaugural member of the Internship Accreditation Oversight Committee. 


2019 - Annette Bonjour, MS, CCLS

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Annette, MS, CCLS, has been a child life specialist for 16 years, working in a variety of clinical settings. For the past nine years, Annette has worked with the Adaptive Care Team (ACT) at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC). In 2015, she joined the Behavior Safety Team (BST) at CCHMC, where she collaborates with the interdisciplinary team to ensure healthcare encounters meet the unique needs of patients with developmental and behavioral challenges. Her work includes performing psychosocial assessments and conducting in-depth pre-visit planning to coordinate care for patients exhibiting escalating and aggressive behaviors in the medical setting. She designed a new build within the electronic health record and is leading the hospital-wide rollout for a pre-visit planning tool, which facilitates interdisciplinary collaboration and pre-planning in a centralized, shared care plan for patients with severe behaviors. In addition, she mentors fellow child life specialists, building their clinical skills to work with this vulnerable patient population.

Annette has a passion for utilizing scientific evidence and data to improve care for patients and families. After completing an assessment evidence-based practice project, Annette used quality improvement methodology as she led the implementation of the Psychosocial Risk Assessment in Pediatrics (PRAP) tool as the standardized assessment process for child life specialists at her institution.   For several years she has served as co-chair for the Evidence-Based Practice/Quality Improvement/Research Education and Awareness Sub-Committee for the Association of Child Life Professionals Scientific Advancement of Professional Practice Committee. Currently, Annette leads several evidence-based practice projects and co-leads the hospital-wide Pain Task Force at Cincinnati Children’s. Annette holds a Master of Science Degree in Health Sciences and is currently pursuing an additional Master’s in Health Informatics, focusing on Healthcare Data Analytics.

2018 - Renee Savic, BS, CCLS

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Renee Savic, BS, CCLS is coming up on her sixth year working at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in Saint Petersburg, Florida, where she was brought in to develop a child life program in the radiology department. The radiology department had a tremendous reduction in sedation used for MRIs with the support and preparation of child life. In addition to working in radiology, she also works in the emergency center and co-facilitates the hospital's Teen Advisory Council, which she helped initiate. Renee is very involved with and often consulted for assistance with patients on the sensory spectrum. 

Renee has been in the profession of child life since the early 1990s and began her career at Shriners Hospitals in Tampa, Florida. Renee spent 18 years there before joining the Johns Hopkins All Children’s team. Renee has been an active member of ACLP and has volunteered on various committees. Renee has held leadership roles in her local organization, the Florida Association of Child Life Professionals, including President, Member at Large, and Secretary. Educating students is an important part of Renee’s passion for the profession, and she has been a preceptor for students for over two decades. 

2017 - Qi Cheng, MS, CCLS


Qi works as the Child Life Manager at Beijing United Family Hospital, where she founded the first child life program in mainland China. As a caring and respected member of an interdisciplinary team, she displays a consistent passion and talent for meeting the psychosocial needs of young patients and their families. As one appreciative colleague said of her, “Sometimes we [doctors] give children a life, but Ms. Cheng teaches children how to live a life.” Qi has worked tirelessly to educate others on the importance of psychosocial care, often spending her weekends providing child life trainings and seminars to other healthcare professionals in her own hospital and others throughout the country.

In addition to spreading awareness of the importance of child life, Qi also invests in the growth of future child life professionals through teaching a child life course at Beijing Normal University and providing clinical supervision for interns. She began a volunteer program for university students and participated in multiple community and academic programs to increase student awareness of child life services. Qi’s persistent efforts in developing the skills and giftings of others demonstrate her deep commitment to the future of her profession.

2016 - Amy Kennedy, CCLS


Amy joined St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in 1999 and is currently a lead child life specialist providing clinical services to patients in Radiation Oncology. She is a highly competent and respected member of an interdisciplinary team that recognizes the tremendous contribution of child life professional to a patient's healthcare team. Amy's skills and instincts are well honed by her years of experience and her dedication to continual learning.

Throughout her career, Amy has shown her commitment to the growth of future child life professionals through her work in the development of student programming and as a preceptor for interns and new specialists in the field. Likewise she is recognized and sought out by her peers as a mentor in their own development. Amy demonstrates her belief in the future of her profession through the many ways she helps others to learn, grow, and succeed.

2015 - Thomas L. Collins, MA, CCLS


Thomas (Tom) Collins is a senior child life specialist in Surgical Services at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. Recognized as a clinical leader and innovator, Tom has excelled in the varying roles of program director, inpatient CCLS, outpatient CCLS, educator, and student supervisor during his 39 year career. His initial work in child life was as an activity specialist on the Adolescent Unit at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, which followed his early work as a speech pathologist. Recognized for his clinical skills, Tom was recruited to begin the first child life program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland in 1980. The program flourished under his management. Perhaps his most treasured achievement was the introduction and comprehensive development of child life services and a preparation protocol in the outpatient surgery center, which led to a permanent child life position in surgical services.

Tom has been an active member of the Association of Child Life Professionals since 1983, with a long list of volunteer leadership roles to his credit. Highlights include serving on the ACLP Executive Board from 1994 to 1996, participating on numerous committees and task forces, including a term as chair of the Awards Committee, and collaborating with 50 invited child life professionals at the Vision-to-Action conferences in the 1990s. He has presented at multiple ACCH and child life conferences, as well as other venues, and served in a teaching role at Mills College, Pacific Oaks College, the University of San Francisco, and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, among a number of other institutions. He was a significant contributor to the publications Coping for Children and Families: Guidelines for Hospitals (1992) and Psychosocial Care of Children in Hospitals (1990).

2014 - Kathryn A. Davitt, MOT, CCLS, OTR

Kathryn “Kat” Davitt, MOT, CCLS, OTR, has worked as a child life specialist at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas for nearly 20 years, and also works as a contract occupational therapist. Prior to her time at Cook Children’s, she worked as a child life assistant and child life specialist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and then as a child life specialist at Scott and White Memorial Hospital. At Cook Children’s, she has held positions as Child Life Clinical Coordinator and Community Program Manager, and she also helped to initiate and define the child life role within her current position working for the outpatient neurology, rheumatology, and palliative care clinics. During her time at Cook Children’s, Kat has created two successful patient and sibling camp programs, and spearheaded the sibling support program. She is considered a system-wide resource for training on professional boundaries, and is a widely-respected student supervisor and staff preceptor, promoting professionalism and self-awareness as a facilitator of a clinical supervision group. She coordinated the student program for many years, and created a “Child Life 101” class in response to the many requests for career information received by her department. Kat took her classroom teaching skills all the way to Emmanuel University in Romania, where she taught the region’s first introductory child life course, leading to three Romanian students completing internships in the U.S.

Kat has been an active member of the child life professional community since the days of the Association for the Care of Children’s Health (ACCH). She has presented workshops at both child life and multidisciplinary conferences, and has been involved in child life conference planning and facilitation at the national and local level. She has published several articles, and co-authored the chapter on chronic illness and rehabilitation in the Handbook of Child Life (2009). Highlights of her involvement with ACLP include participating in both parts of ACLP’s Vision to Action conference (1996), serving as Secretary of the ACLP Executive Board (2006-2008), participating in the first Job Analysis and Certification Exam preparation; chairing the Conference Planning Committee (2006); and serving on a wide variety of ACLP committees over the years.

2013 - Stephanie Hopkinson, MA, CCLS


Stephanie Hopkinson, MA, CCLS, is a child life specialist at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center and a senior adjunct faculty member at Pacific Oaks College. She is also the Lead Executive Consultant and Curriculum Design Specialist for Full Circle Consulting Systems, Inc., a national firm dedicated to the advancement of children, youth and families through training and technical assistance. Prior to her time working as a child life specialist at Kaiser, Stephanie held positions at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where she was responsible for the co‐development and implementation of the child life internship program, and Yale New-Haven Children’s Hospital. Stephanie has made significant contributions to the body of child life knowledge as a writer, a presenter, and mentor. She co-authored a chapter in the 2008 publication Child Life Beyond the Hospital, and among other presentations and intensives, she delivered the closing keynote address for ACLP’s Annual Conference and 25th Anniversary Celebration in 2007. She has served as an active member on numerous committees and in a variety of leadership capacities, including as a Member-at-Large for the ACLP Executive Board from 2006-08. In addition to her service as an active member of many other ACLP committees and task forces, Stephanie chaired the Education Committee from 2004-06, and is currently serving as co-chair of the Public Policy Task Force. Along with her professional and volunteer work with ACLP, Stephanie commits to more than 200 hours per year of public service in developing countries through Operation Smile.

2012 - Gail Klayman, MEd, CCLS


Gail Klayman, MEd, CCLS, is the Adaptive Care Team Coordinator at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) in Ohio, and her career as a child life clinician has spanned more than 40 years. Among many other accomplishments, Gail was recognized for her pioneering work in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Starshine Hospice, and the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. In the early 1970s, Gail helped to champion 24-hour family visitation rights at CCHMC, and later in the 1980s, she was a strong proponent of the family-centered care movement . Over the years she has been responsible for the development of numerous policies, protocols and interventions to improve the quality of care for patients and families at CCHMC. In 2009, she initiated the CCHMC Adaptive Care Team, which provides preparation and support to patients with developmental and behavioral challenges. Among her most recent notable accomplishments, Gail partnered with a colleague at CCHMC in the development and evaluation of an assessment tool called the Psychosocial Risk Assessment in Pediatrics (PRAP), which is designed to evaluate a patient’s vulnerability and identify priority patients. The PRAP tool will soon be made available to child life programs throughout North America through a partnership between Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the Association of Child Life Professionals.

2011 - Elizabeth “Lissy” Zaremba, MA, CCLS


Lissy Zaremba, MS, CCLS, began her career as a child life specialist at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in 1992, and she has been an integral member of the team since that time. She spent the first ten years of her career working the General Medical floors, before moving on to her current position in the Epilepsy and Sleep Monitoring Unit, where she provides in-services to all new EEG and sleep technicians about the psychosocial needs of pediatric patients and families. She worked for many years under the guidance and mentorship of Mary Barkey herself, and continues the important work of updating and promoting the Comfort Measures model; she recently traveled as far as Spain to educate others about the techniques pioneered by Mary and her colleague, Barbara Stephens. Within her own institution, just a few examples of Lissy’s outstanding work include: expanding the Rainbow Babies “Pet Pals” (pet therapy) program; leading a successful pilot child life program in the Pediatric Radiology department that resulted in obtaining funding for a full time child life position; and encouraging the ongoing professional development of her child life and health care colleagues through staff orientation, education, supervision, and mentorship. In the area of research and evidence-based practice, Lissy collaborated with Dr. Carol Rosen on an article published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (Vol. 2(1), p.3., 2005) and produced a DVD on the topic of making sleep studies child friendly, both of which have helped to promote child life concepts in pediatric sleep centers throughout the country.

2010 - Bindy Sweett, CCLS


Bindy Sweett has been a respected and integral member of the child life department at BC Children’s Hospital for over 20 years. Currently, Bindy also serves as Sessional Instructor at the School of Child and Youth Care, University of Victoria. Bindy’s professional career began in the field of early childhood as an educator as well as an instructor. After receiving her BA, with distinction, from the School of Child Care at University of Victoria, British Columbia, Bindy began her clinical journey as a child life specialist. Since then, Bindy has been honored in numerous ways by her employer including two Partners in Care Awards and two Excellence in Education awards. Some examples of her outstanding work include the establishment of a child life position in BCCH’s Surgical Day Care Program, the development of an internship program, integrating child life services into the pre-admission clinic, and innovative work with specialty teams such as the pain team. Besides being a dedicated provider of direct clinical work, Bindy is an accomplished speaker and educator. She has presented on a variety of child life topics at the ACLP Annual Conference, in Webinars, and in her written work for Child  Life Focus, Child Life Beyond the Hospital, and The Early Childhood Educator. Bindy’s long-standing commitment to the Association of Child Life Professionals has included servingas a Member-at-Large on the Board of Directors from 2005-2006, and as CLCC Certification Chair from 2001-2003. Her current volunteer positions with ACLP include membership onthe Internship Task Force, Webinar Task Force, and ACLP Program Review and Development Service Committee (2010). Bindy has a particular gift for building relationships and she has generously shared her skills with the larger ACLP community by serving as a networking facilitator for ACLP conferences and as a group facilitator for the 2009 Academic Summit at Wheelock College. She is also a dedicated volunteer for the Children's Heart Network in British Columbia. Since December 2009, Bindyhas served as an Ambassador for the Canadian Child Life Institute.

Child Life Profession