Bringing Halloween to the Hospital
Everybody knows about the people who treat kids’ illnesses, but what about those who keep their spirits up? Some of the patients at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital can be admitted for weeks or months, sometimes even longer. That’s why UF Health’s Child Life Program is dedicated to making their stays as comfortable, fun and familiar as possible.
The Child Life Program not only helps children cope with hospitalization and procedures, but also helps provide activities and special events while they are hospitalized. One goal of the program is to normalize the hospital for patients, which can be done through organizing special events for the different seasons and holidays.
“The patients wake up and see their doctors and nurses, and the routine can get kind of boring surrounded by blank walls and their little televisions,” UF Health Child Life specialist Amanda McLeod said. “We have a calendar of activities to encourage kids to come to the group room. When we have special events to include in the mix, it’s pretty incredible!”
This Halloween season, the team planned events for nearly every day in October. One event, Pumpkins for Munchkins, has been held annually for more than five years. Dunkin’ Donuts sponsors the event, bringing doughnuts for the staff and families and plastic pumpkins for patients to decorate. On Halloween day, the team joins with UF Health Volunteer Services for a Pet Therapy Parade, in which pet therapists and their owners dress up in costumes to parade through the units.
To make sure everyone feels the holiday spirit, the pediatric units also have reverse trick-or-treating. For patients who might not be able to leave their rooms, Child Life specialists and volunteers bring goodies to them. Walmart, one of the Children’s Miracle Network’s major supporters, got involved by donating costumes so that all of the kids could dress up even if they couldn’t leave their room.
There are plenty of ways for the community to get involved, whether it is by planning special events with an organization, donating to the program or volunteering in the hospital. Special events typically run for about an hour, up to six people from the organization are invited to help facilitate. The Child Life Program accepts donations year-round and their wish list can be found on their website. Visit the Child Life Program website to learn more about ways to help.