No tricks — only treats and happy times for sick kids hospitalized at UCLA

Reed Hutchinson/UCLA

Sick children at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital got to experience the fun and zaniness of what healthier children will expect on Halloween. Along with their families, costumed patients enjoyed a magic show before stopping at trick-or-treat stations greeted by smiling volunteers, hospital and campus employees, and dogs, all wearing their Halloween best.

If laughter is the best medicine, then kids staying at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital got a healthy dose of it today during a Halloween celebration filled with giggles and smiles.

For 6-year-old patient Abby Karr, Halloween couldn’t come soon enough. She had been planning her transformation into a pink, bedazzled Batgirl all week long, said her mother Megan Karr. Abby, who suffers from a heart and lung condition and has been hospitalized on and off since she was 16 months old, couldn't wait for today to arrive.

Without ever leaving the hospital, she saw it all: Star Wars characters, super heroes, kitten outfits galore and costumed dogs, patiently wearing their Halloween finery. Keeping Abby company were other patients and their families who didn’t have to miss out on the fun.

Reed Hutchinson/UCLA
Ten-month-old Norah Booth, who is recovering from a liver transplant, was celebrating her first Halloween as Super Girl.

Dressed up in Halloween costumes donated by Spirit Halloween stores and selected at a “boutique” held earlier, kids trailed by happy parents went trick-or-treating through the hospital hallways and main lobby after being treated to a magic show.

Everyone got into the spirit with help from child life specialists, nurses, hospital volunteers, community organizations and nearly 70 campus departments and groups from UCLA Health and the UCLA campus. They handed out goodies at stations along corridors and the main hospital lobby where kids stopped, greeted by costumed dogs from the UCLA People–Animal Connection, the hospital’s animal-assisted therapy program.

“It means everything to us to see these kids and their families smiling and enjoying the day,” said Jerome Crawford, the hospital’s director of performance excellence and value, whose department created a Star Wars-themed station. “Many of these patients are hospitalized for weeks or months at a time with complex illnesses. This event gives these kids a chance to experience a normal childhood activity that they might otherwise miss.”

The parents of 10-months-old Norah Booth, who received a liver transplant five weeks ago, were all smiles to see their infant dressed up as Super Girl, complete with cape and headband. 

“This is such a special way to spend our first Halloween with her,” said Chelsea Booth, Norah’s mother. “This event gave us something to look forward to and celebrate — and we have a lot to celebrate!” Cheers greeted baby Norah when her parents brought her to the UCLA Office of Patient Experience station where staff were decked out as Supermen and one Clark Kent.  

“With patients often unable to leave the confines of the hospital, this brings the fun of Halloween to our pediatric patients and their families, enabling them to experience the magic of the holiday like kids are supposed to,” said Debbie Rossignol, senior patient liaison with the hospital’s Office of Patient Experience team.

The annual event was organized by the hospital’s Chase Child Life Program.

“Just because a child is in the hospital, it doesn’t mean that they should have to miss out on one of the biggest holidays that kids look forward to all year,” said Kellye Carroll, director of the Chase Child Program at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital. “And this was a joyous Halloween celebration we will all remember.”

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