Online platform for kids with chronic, critical illness grows in response to pandemic

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As physical distancing restrictions are pushing us all to do our socializing over the internet, an online community used by youth with chronic and critical illness is growing and welcoming guests that have never visited the site before.

For over a decade Upopolis, a private social networking platform, has been safely connecting youth who are navigating chronic illness, critical illness and hospital experiences in many hospitals and community partner organizations across the country.

The online platform connects youth ten to 18 years of age with others like them who are going through medical experiences. The goal is to help reduce social isolation brought about by activity restrictions, illness, and hospitalization while educating and empowering youth to play an active role in managing and coping with their diagnosis.

In light of these times, online support is a powerful tool in managing the isolation youth are currently experiencing. For youth who have used Upopolis in the past, the current restrictions have an air of familiarity.

“One youth commented that she now doesn’t feel so different from her peers. She has had to attend school online for a while due to treatment and now that her classmates are doing it as well, she feels like a typical teen again,” says Krista Naugler, Upopolis program manager. She is one of a team of child life specialists funded by Kids Health Links Foundation to support programming and content development. She also happens to be a Certified Child Life Specialist at the IWK in the Emergency Department.

In recent weeks Upopolis has seen more youth visiting the secure platform.

“We have seen an increase in the number of health care providers reaching out to refer youth to Upopolis,” says Naugler. “They want to connect with those youth on the platform as well as connect them with their peers during this difficult time.”

And Upopolis programming itself is expanding to support more youth. Pop-Ups have been launched, providing private groups for siblings of youth with medical conditions as well as youth who are grieving the death of a loved one have also been launched.

U Got This!, a five-day challenge that Upopolis issued in early April in response to COVID-19 and self-isolation has youth outside of the platform reaching out to take part. The challenge offers participants lessons and worksheets to explore their feelings, check in with their bodies, plan their days, explore and develop positive coping skills, and set personal goals.

For more information on Upopolis, please visit

If youth would like to participate in the full  five-day challenge, they can email

Links to Day One of U Got This!

Chat/lesson with CCLS