We have always been captivated by superheroes, selflessly leaping into action—and most of them began life in the timeless, vibrant pages of a comic book. And thanks to CHOC’s Comic Assent project, the power of full-page panels and voice bubbles will inspire new generations of heroes, from the kids who take part in research studies to the donors who enable projects such as this.
Launched in March 2022 as a recipient of CHOC’s One Wish Grants program, the Comic Assent was first imagined by Kirsten Kasper, a Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC) in the Genomics Program at CHOC’s Hyundai Cancer Institute. She saw the need for adolescent patients to better understand research studies.
“For children to participate in research, we need to explain it on their level—what it entails, risks and benefits, and that it’s voluntary,” Kasper explains: “So many times, kids don’t have a voice in their treatment, but research is different; they get to have an opinion, and they can say no. Communicating that in an age-appropriate way is important.”
Thankfully, Kasper’s father is an art professor, and seeing his students’ work in animation and fine art gave Kasper the vision for the Comic Assent—joined by her project team and artist Jason Piperberg, who has illustrated for the likes of Pepsi and Archie Comics.
Selfless giving inspires a heroic team
Projects like the Comic Assent are given life and breadth entirely by the philanthropic support that enables One Wish Grants. This CHOC program awards grant funding to projects pitched and developed by CHOC clinicians and associates to improve the patient and family experience—and Kasper’s supervisor convinced her that her idea was a winner.
“It’s only because our community members give their time, money or expertise that so many projects flourish,” says Kasper. “The Comic Assent was enthusiastically supported by the Foundation, and philanthropy met our immediate need by funding its development.”
Once Kasper’s team decided on the comic book format, Piperberg provided concept art that was presented in a formal survey to 25 children, who offered youthful insight in making the Comic Assent effective and relatable.
“One young boy was delighted when he saw the picture of the little girl who had the long braids and glasses. He said, ‘Look! She has glasses just like me!’” Kasper says with a smile. “The kids were so engaged and thoughtful in their responses. It helped us refine our characters.”
Piperberg also produced customizable dialogue boxes and panels to depict the procedures involved for any given research project.
One project, many heroes
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Kasper’s team had successfully developed and pitched their project, and received a One Wish Grant—a philanthropy-driven development process that improved the final Comic Assent and patient interaction.
“I had a nice experience with a young patient who could read English, but his mom did not,” Kasper recalls, “and she enjoyed seeing the illustrations of what the research entailed. So even though the doctor and a translator were there, the Comic Assent was another way to get that information to her. The comic made it a more fun conversation.”
Today, the assent is successfully integrated into research at CHOC, and has been translated into five languages to be adapted into the existing artwork. It is a dream realized by the generous donor gifts behind the One Wish Grants program, which open the door for research possibilities at CHOC—and further.
“When CHOC turns its attention to a topic, we want to improve a child’s health, so we go over and above,” Kasper explains. “To take a straightforward document and invest a lot of talent, time and resources into this Comic Assent that will educate and reduce anxiety, it’s just wonderful. The initial philanthropic support we received will have a long-lasting, helpful impact on children for years to come. “My hope is that every children’s hospital uses this.”
Make an Impact
While One Wish Grants give CHOC physicians and associates the ability to pioneer new solutions to serve our community, this program is only possible through philanthropy. With your support, the One Wish Grants program will bring groundbreaking new ideas like the Comic Assent into reality.