WASHINGTON — Inside of an arts space in Northeast D.C.'s Brookland neighborhood, actors could be heard rehearsing lines and seen trying on costumes.

The group worked to learn lines and dance moves that could easily result in laughter which is important because audience the audiences the actors perform for deserves a couple of smiles.

The actors aim to improve the lives of children living with serious illnesses.

"We’re basically working with children who may be battling cancer, children who may have behavioral or emotional challenges, also children who just have chronic illnesses," said Tamela Aldridge, executive director of Only Make Believe.

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Only Make Believe is a nonprofit arts organization that serves children in hospitals, care facilities, and special education programs by engaging them through interactive theater.

"They bring a special skill set to what we’re asking them to do," Aldridge said about the actors the nonprofit hires. Not everyone can go into a hematology, oncology clinic and see a child who is in the thick of a battle with cancer and be able to see that child."

The services Only Make Believe offers could have an impact on the children’s health.

A study published by the Association for Psychological Science found smiling can help reduce stress, and another study linked smiling and happiness to living a longer life.

The organization launched more than 20 years ago in 1999 in New York City and expanded to D.C. in recent years.

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“Medicine is great. Healthcare is great, but also the mind and the spirit. I feel like that’s what we treat,” Aldridge smiled.

The organization offers volunteer opportunities for community members to create hats, capes, masks, and other items the children may choose to wear during performances.

The children are allowed to keep any of the crafts they choose, and everything is provided free of charge to families.

If you are interested in donating time or a monetary contribution to Only Make Believe, tap here to learn more about opportunities.

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