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Loyola University New Orleans Play Therapy Center Receives Endowment and Grant from the Heebe Family Fund

Loyola press release - February 4, 2016

Loyola hosts annual LAPT conference, celebrates National Play Therapy Week in February

Gift from the Heebe Family Fund at Touro Infirmary will help train healthcare professionals focused on families struggling with life-threatening illnesses;

The Loyola University New Orleans Play Therapy Center of Education and Research announces a recent endowment by The Heebe Family Fund at Touro Infirmary. The endowment will help to provide training and continuing education workshops for healthcare professionals, especially mental health counselors focused on families struggling with life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer.

National Play Therapy Week, which runs Feb. 7-13, 2016, is designed to raise awareness of this critical mental health service and its role in helping and healing families. Furthering this effort, Loyola New Orleans will host and co-sponsor the Louisiana Association of Play Therapy’s annual conference Feb. 26-27, 2016, 6363 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, La. Headlined by guest speaker and registered play therapy supervisor Linda Homeyer, Ph.D., LPC-S, the 2016 LAPT conference will center around trauma-informed play therapy and include a day of professional workshops.

“It is very important for the state of Louisiana to have a premier location for play therapy education for professionals as well as children, families, and caregivers,” said LeAnne Steen, director of the Loyola University New Orleans Play Therapy Center of Education and Research.

“Adding a continuing education program, to the for credit-options already available, will allow the play therapy center to pollinate the region with professionals who know how to respond to children and families in crisis, especially those crisis’ related to life-threatening illness and the influence within the family system. Each trained professional will translate into literally hundreds of families and children affected by that individual.”

The Loyola University New Orleans Play Therapy Center of Education and Research, founded by Steen in 2008, is the only center of its kind in Louisiana. It is the third play therapy center in the U.S. to be officially recognized and is one of fewer than 20 such centers in the nation. In May, the center again received three-year designation as an Approved Center of Play Therapy Education from the national Association for Play Therapy (APT). Approximately 16 percent of accredited colleges and universities today offer play therapy instruction and supervised clinical experiences. The endowment from The Heebe Family Fund ensures a lasting legacy for the center at Loyola.

Play therapy is a form of mental health counseling or psychotherapy by which licensed mental health professionals incorporate the use of play to better communicate with and help clients achieve optimal mental health. Play therapists are trained in play therapy philosophy, theory, and facilitation. Mental health agencies, schools, hospitals, and private practitioners use play therapy as a primary intervention or as supportive therapy for children and families struggling with transitional life adjustments, emotional difficulties, behavioral problems, or disorders.

The Heebe Family Fund at Touro Infirmary was established in honor of Mimi and Odom Heebe, Jr. and their children to make life better for children and their families facing cancer and other life threatening diseases. Mimi Heebe was diagnosed with breast cancer in her late twenties. She went through chemo and radiation, recovered and later married and had three children. Shortly after having her third child in as many years, the cancer reappeared.

Following treatment and in spite of Mimi’s belief that she had beat the disease for good, the cancer came back with a vengeance approximately five years later and spread to her lungs, liver and brain. For the next seven years, she fought hard and with dignity and “never without a smile on her face,” her husband said. Mimi Heebe lost her battle with cancer on Aug. 30, 2015 at the age of 52.

The ability to help other families navigate through the stress of dealing with a life threatening disease was paramount to Mimi Heebe and is a significant part of her legacy.

"The children and I are thrilled to be supporting a program that enables future and current professionals to learn more about play therapy, its techniques and benefits,” Odom Heebe said. “We know that Mimi would be thrilled to see this coming into fruition at Loyola’s established and esteemed program.”

The endowment and gift from The Heebe Family Fund to Loyola’s Play Therapy Center includes: center endowment; a budget for new projects related to training/continuing education professional workshops, in particular, focusing on families struggling with life threatening illnesses such as cancer; funds to add more play therapy literature and videos to Loyola’s Monroe Library and to create an online play therapy catalogue, and funding to establish workshop scholarships.