Kids’ band frontman brings music fest to hospital patients

Oklahoma City – As 10-year old Mackenzie Asher sits connected to an IV pole receiving a blood transfusion, she’s not thinking about her leukemia, hospital stay or anything else but her rock-star name and high-fives.

That’s because Mackenzie is focused on Wiggle Out Loud TV, The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center’s most recent effort to help kids cope while hospitalized. The closed-circuit television show came about because of the hospital’s connection to the annual Oklahoma City family music festival, Wiggle Out Loud.

Mackenzie laughs and watches attentively, picking up the phone in the infusion room to call into the program under her rock-star name – Rocky the Rock Star – and giving the show’s host “air high-fives” after correctly answering questions about a music video. 

“I think it’s fun to call in and answer questions,” Mackenzie said through a giggle. “And Boom is funny.”

“Boom,” also known as Chris Wiser, member of the children’s band Sugar Free Allstars and founder of the Wiggle Out Loud festival, hosts Wiggle Out Loud TV for one hour on Fridays from a studio at The Children’s Hospital. The live show features jokes, interactive segments where patients call in and answer questions, and, of course, lots of music.

“A lot of these kids have a life I can’t even imagine,” said Wiser. “They’re strong and brave, and I hope for a little bit they’re distracted and entertained while we’re having fun and creating something together.”

Not only does Wiser enjoy entertaining children, he’s inspired by them. Three years ago while playing music for patients at Children’s, Wiser improvised a song about monster trucks at the request of a child. That impromptu song led to the latest single, “Monster Truck” off Sugar Free Allstars’ most recent self-titled studio album.

“Music can bring joy to situations that aren’t always the best,” Wiser said.

Wiser describes Wiggle Out Loud TV as a mini version of the big festival. Children and families in the hospital can be a part of the fun, celebration and spirit of Wiggle Out Loud even if they can’t leave Children’s.

For its first two years, Wiggle Out Loud was planned and organized by an all-volunteer board of Wiser’s friends and family and people who believed in the mission. The spirit of the festival didn’t change when the hospital became the presenting sponsor in 2015 and the Children’s Hospital Volunteers started planning and organizing the event.

“We wanted to connect Wiggle Out Loud and its focus on active, healthy lifestyles to our patients and families here,” said Sara Jacobson, director of The Children’s Hospital Volunteers, a nonprofit benefiting programs at The Children’s Hospital. “This is a way for kids to be a part of an interactive and engaging activity while in the hospital.”

The studio where Wiggle Out Loud TV is filmed and all of the programming recorded there are funded by the Children’s Hospital Volunteers through festival proceeds and community support.

Wiser said it’s been serendipitous, the evolution of being a musician and creating a festival to working with the hospital to bring Wiggle to the bedside.

“It couldn’t be a more perfect fit,” Wiser said.

Jacobson said the festival and the relationships forged working on it have resulted not only in wonderful music and programs like Wiggle Out Loud TV, but an increased focus on even more ways to bring the experience to patients.

“We want to consistently bring that Wiggle experience here,” she said. “It’s been a phenomenal thing.”

As Mackenzie sits and waits for her infusion to be done – her nurse checking in on her amid the whirr of medical machines – Wiser’s synthesizer sounds and goofy lyrics, air high-fives and children’s music videos transform the infusion room.

When she’s done, Mackenzie smiles.

“That was fun,” she said.

Wiggle Out Loud is from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Myriad Botanical Gardens Great Lawn, 301 W Reno Ave.