Tap the book three times, say “alakazam” and suddenly, the pictures inside have color. Tap the book twice and say “wazow,” and they go black and white.
These are the words that 10-year-old magician Ian Dowling utters as he performs his famous coloring book trick in the children’s room at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital in Stony Brook, New York.
The young magician has been performing tricks for about a year now under the guidance of his magic mentor Kristen Clark, a second-year medical student at Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.
The pair were matched through the MagicAid therapy program at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.
In spring 2019, Ian Dowling became suddenly ill. After several tests, he was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma.
“He had this pain on his side, so I took him to the hospital expecting it was pulled muscle,” Ian’s dad, Brett Dowling, told “GMA.” “It was pretty surreal, I had to ask the doctor to repeat themselves. Are you telling me my son has cancer?”
Ian Dowling spent the next several months in and out of the hospital, receiving test after test and multiple rounds of chemotherapy.
It was during this time that he met Clark through the program at Stony Brook that pairs medical students with patients at the children’s hospital.
The program is designed to help reduce patient anxiety by having students teach patients magic tricks that they can learn and later perform for friends and family.
“Ian was so excited to learn the new tricks,” Clark told "GMA." “He would take the tricks home and learn them, and next time he was back in the hospital, he would show me.”
Like most other participants in the program, one of Ian Dowling’s first tricks was the "Magic Genie" trick, an illusion where he mysteriously makes a red ball disappear and reappear before a viewer's eyes.
“This was one of the first tricks I learned,” Ian Dowling said. “It’s a fun one.”
Now, after six months of being cancer free, Ian Dowling is still performing the Magic Genie trick as well as others he’s learned at the hospital.
“I like to show my friends and family because they are always surprised and try to figure out how I did it,” he said.
Clark and Ian Dowling recently reunited for the first time since he left the hospital in August 2019.
Wasting no time, the two caught up and Clark even brought a new trick for Dowling to learn that just required a box of crayons.
MagicAid was founded in 2016 by Harrison Pravder and David Elkin, two medical students at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.
The pair founded the group with the hopes of using magic to empower patients and help them get through their difficult time in the hospital.
“MagicAid is a community of health care students who work together to help patients re-establish hope and re-establish what it means to be a child,” Pravder told "GMA."
“Oftentimes in the hospital, they’re suffering or in pain and not the happiest they can be. Magic is something that can give them hope,” he said.
According to Pravder, MagicAid is often the first hands-on patient experience the medical students have.
“Our goal isn’t to make magicians out of students,” he said. “It’s to spread magic to as many patients as possible to create more smiles.”
Those smiles often extend beyond the patients. Magic therapy can help reduce patient anxiety as well as anxiety felt by their loved ones. This was the case for Ian Dowling.
“For about six months we really lived at the hospital, so as a parent, this [program] was very beneficial,” Brett Dowling said. “After seeing him go through the chemo, it was nice to see him smile,” he said.
Today, MagicAid has trained more than 300 students as magic mentors for patients at several medical facilities. The organization strives to continue to spread its magic beyond the Stony Brook campus so it can help more patients like Dowling and his family.
“I’m thankful for the people who are doing this [MagicAid] because the hospital is not a fun place, so adding this makes it more fun,” Ian Dowling said.
Ian Dowling is a 10-year-old cancer survivor who believes in magic originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com