Tablet computers help kids relax during Penn Township Ambulance trips

| Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Penn Township Ambulance is using a $250 grant to buy an electronic device for children to use as a distraction during long trips to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

PNC Bank is donating the money because the ambulance agency's project received the goal of 250 votes — providing $1 per vote — on the bank's Neighborhood Wishlist program website.

The nonprofit organization will buy a third nabi 2 tablet to keep in an ambulance for children to use during transports. The group's two other ambulances have had tablets available to children since April because of donations by Girl Scout troops 26109 in Level Green and 21983 in McCullough.

Penn Township Ambulance transported 66 children between the ages of 1 and 12 to Children's Hospital in 2012, Supervisor Ed Grant said.

During those trips, children were on life-support only 3 percent of the time — so most of the children who are transported into Pittsburgh are awake and with little to do during the trip, which can last up to 45 minutes. The tablets give children something to take their mind off of the reason for the trip, Grant said.

Grant said he got the idea to use a tablet in the ambulance after he saw how much his 2-year-old daughter was getting out of the device as an entertainment option and an educational tool.

On the tablet, children can work on puzzles, play a game of “Angry Birds” or send a message to a friend or family member updating their condition.

“It's always been a challenge to keep them occupied during that trip, just to keep their mind off what's coming or what's going on with them then,” Grant said.

For the second year, PNC selected 100 projects from nearly 1,000 applications to give grants up to $500 apiece, according to the Neighborhood Wishlist site. The initiatives are in 18 states and Washington, D.C. Only six of the projects are in Pennsylvania.

Other projects include an adopt-a-block program in McKeesport to purchase mowers and snow shovels to perform community service for widows, senior citizens and the disabled; equipment for a sensory room for children with autism in Canton, Ohio; and handmade blankets for children in foster care or crisis situations in Felton, Del.

A spokesperson for PNC was not available for comment about the program.

Penn Township Ambulance used its Facebook page over a two-week period to invite its followers to vote on the website. On Aug. 30, the project became the second to be fully funded by PNC.

Compared to most equipment in an ambulance, the tablet is a relatively inexpensive item to have on board to make the experience less-intimidating for children, Grant said.

“Part of our job and part of our role is making people comfortable, so that succeeds in that part of our mission,” he said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or

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