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South Carolina Aquarium and Aflac to Give Pediatric Hospital Patients a Virtual Aquarium Experience

Roving Robot Brings Aquarium to Patient Rooms Across South Carolina, Thanks to Support From Aflac 

Thanks to a new partnership with Aflac, patients at children’s hospitals across the state will be able to sign up for self-guided virtual tours of the South Carolina Aquarium, with the help of roving robot technology. Controlled directly from the patient’s in-room tablet, the robot will allow the patient to create their own path through the exhibits and enjoy an immersive experience from afar.

This program, piloted at MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, is expanding to work with Prisma Health Children’s Hospital in the Midlands and Upstate. Educators at the Aquarium are working with hospital staff to arrange these robot tours during patients’ free time, long stays or even during their treatments. 

"It has been truly amazing to facilitate this experience. The kids are able to take control and drive through the Aquarium on their own exploration, when in many other aspects of their lives, they may lack that sense of being the one ‘at the wheel,” said virtual programs coordinator, Alayna Robertson.

Nature has an enormous impact on well-being, and the telepresence robot offers a bridge to connect patients with water and wildlife. Patients have full control of the robot, letting curiosity guide them as they move forward to visit a sea turtle at its tank window, look up to see a shark swim by or zoom in to get a closer look at the iridescent scales on a fish. They are able to speak and engage with the Aquarium educator teaching them along their adventure. They can even talk to Aquarium guests or wave to fellow kids on a field trip.

Betsy McMillan, child life manager at MUSC Children’s Health shared, “We were thrilled when the Aquarium team approached us about this program. The Lowcountry views from our hospital rooms offer the perfect background to this unique and educational escape for our inpatients. We are grateful for this amazing opportunity. What child doesn’t want to steer a robot and tour the wonderful South Carolina Aquarium at the same time!”

A generous gift from Aflac has made this program possible for patients at these hospitals.

“We’re pleased to help children in hospitals across the state experience the wonder of the South Carolina Aquarium without ever leaving their rooms,” said Bob Ruff, senior vice president, Group Voluntary Benefits. “Whether it is through our award-winning My Special Aflac Duck® program for children with cancer and sickle cell disease or initiatives like this, providing comfort and joy to kids who are going through medical challenges represents our commitment to be there for families in their times of need.”

Check out this video of the robot program in action. 

About the South Carolina Aquarium: 

The South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston's No.1 family attraction, is home to more than 5,000 animals, from river otters and sharks to sea turtles and shorebirds, and represents the rich biodiversity of our state — from the mountains to the sea. Visitors can also get an inside look at the Sea Turtle Care Center™, a working hospital dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick and injured sea turtles. While fulfilling its mission to promote education, conservation, and an exceptional visitor experience, the Aquarium also presents sweeping views of the Charleston Harbor along with interactive exhibits and programs for visitors of all ages.

The South Carolina Aquarium is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Aquarium is open daily from 9 a.m.–5 p.m., with the last entry at 3:30 p.m. The Aquarium is open seven days a week with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, December 25 and a half day on December 24 (open 9 a.m.–noon). Tickets must be purchased online for a selected date and entry time. General admission prices are $34.95 for adults (age 13+) and $27.95 for children (age 3–12). Toddlers (age 0–2) receive free admission. Annual Aquarium membership with unlimited visits starts at $99. For more information, call (843) 577-FISH (3474) or visit

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