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Wellness Warriors


In the Wellness Warriors program,
counselors who are both medical
professionals and certified martial
arts instructors help in-patient
children cope with pain and anxiety.

Wellness Warriors is an innovative program designed to inspire, empower and enable children and their families to better manage health care challenges.


Imagine a fresh approach to helping kids manage chronic illness that blends ancient wisdom and martial arts to encourage healing and positive self-awareness. Designed to inspire pediatric patients and their families, the Wellness Warriors program instills purposefulness and belief in their ability to get well. The program is offered at

Cardon Children’s Medical Center through the gift of philanthropy.

In this unique program, implemented by The Center for Humane Living, counselors help in-patient children cope with pain and anxiety using focused breathing, movement and mindfulness techniques that include meditation and guided imagery. For children who are able to move about, age appropriate yoga and martial arts moves, tailored to their specific health challenges, are incorporated into their sessions. The combination of breathing and movement aids patients in improving their strength, flexibility and agility—in addition to their confidence. Meanwhile, children who are not ambulatory are visited in their hospital rooms. They receive a karate uniform to wear during the visit and based on their capabilities, participate in activities that often involve storytelling or arts and crafts.

“Throughout the martial arts instruction, we tell stories using ancient wisdom philosophy that help children think differently about their illness and become an empowered participant in their own healing,” explains Dr. Mike Foley, co-founder of The Center for Humane Living, a eighth-degree black belt, and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. “They’ll continue to inspire hope and healing as they take this journey with other children in the hospital. After discharge, children will be able to continue their training at any one of our locations in their community, at no cost.”

Sessions are guided by volunteers who are both medical professionals and certified martial arts instructors. Quarterly sessions for 5 to 10 patients and family members are guided by volunteer counselors made up of physicians, physical therapists, psychologists, nurses, and nutritionists—all certified martial arts instructors. At the end of each session, participants are graduated to Wellness Warriors, with the understanding that “paying it forward” is an important part of mastering their newfound skills. Their task: Teach what they have learned to another hospitalized child who was unable to attend.

Success for the program is measured by the enthusiasm of participants, and more importantly, by the need for less pain medication during wound dressing changes and intravenous (IV) insertions, and a reduction in visible and verbalized stress levels by patients and family members. After narcotics no longer helped his daughter, one patient’s father credited her significant reduction of pain to applying the methods she learned through Wellness Warriors. 

The program is made possible by generous gifts from Women Inspiring Scientific Progress, the giving circle known as WISP that works in collaboration with Banner Health, and Cox Charities.

“As a supporter of youth and education programs across Arizona, Cox Charities is proud to invest in this unique initiative that empowers Banner's pediatric patients to overcome challenges of childhood illness,” said Susan Anable, Vice President of Public and Government Affairs at Cox Communications.

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