It was shaping up to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Halloween for Juniper Wagner. She'd been looking forward to dressing up as Elsa and trick-or-treating, but doctors at Mayo Eugenio Litta Children's Hospital felt that the 5-year-old would need to spend one more night — Halloween night! — in the hospital. "When she found out we would have to stay another day she was very disappointed," Juniper's mom, Phoebe tells us. (Parents everywhere may suspect that's an understatement.)
Then Juniper learned that the Mayo Clinic's Child Life Program would be bringing Halloween to her. "If kids were at home, they'd be doing fun stuff at school and in their neighborhood," Val Stuve, a child life specialist, tells us. "We want to bring that into the hospital so the kids don't feel left out."
And bring it they did. On Halloween morning, Child Life staff turned the hospital's playroom into a costume shop where kids and their siblings could get their faces painted and pick out costumes. For kids who couldn't leave their rooms, Child Life staff brought costumes (and face paint) to their bedsides. Though Juniper had planned to be Elsa, the costume "had long sleeves, and she didn't want it to touch her IV," Phoebe tells us. Child Life staff "were nice enough to work with her in finding a costume she could wear comfortably." (Goodbye, Elsa. Hello, Princess Sophia the First.)
That afternoon, Juniper and the other costumed kiddos got to trick-or-treat — with a twist. "We do reverse trick-or-treating," Stuve says. "Instead of sending kids out, we have staff and special guests come and make deliveries to kids in their rooms." This year, more than 20 groups from throughout the hospital and community were on hand to deliver stickers, finger puppets and other nonedible treats. "Juniper loved seeing all the different costumes and being able to show off her own all from the comfort of her room," Phoebe says.
Staff loved it, too. "It brought a smile to my face and my heart to see the kids having fun and forgetting their problems even for a little while," Kim Schmidt tells us. Schmidt, one of the marketing and recruitment coordinators for Mayo Clinic's Blood Donor Program, and her colleagues handed out Halloween balloons, treat bags and Mayo Clinic mugs to patients and their parents. (The balloons earned especially rave reviews, we're told.)
While not every day can be Halloween, Mayo's Child Life staff bring purposeful play to the hospital each day of the year. "Activities like these help kids feel better," Stuve says. "It gets them up and out of bed and moving." And that's often just what the doctor ordered. "When the doctors would come by to chat about Juniper, they would say, 'Make sure she gets to have fun, because that's the priority,'" Phoebe tells us.
It must have been good medicine. "Juniper got the okay to go home on Nov. 1," Phoebe says. "She was so excited, but said she would miss all of the fun things she got to do at the hospital. The fact that she left thinking it was a fun place to be makes me really appreciate the level of care we received. I can't ask for a greater experience than that."
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