Children crept from their hospital rooms—visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads—as music played and a performance of the Nutcracker soared.
The annual holiday party at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is put together by the Child Life Services team for the kiddos each year. This tradition includes arts and crafts, Christmas ornament-making stations, Christmas presents, and copies of the “Polar Express.”
As expected, there was a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. The security crew and their dogs even had their photos taken with Santa, while Bob Connors, MD, president of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, stopped down to play a game of bucket toss.
The West Michigan Youth Ballet delivered a special performance of the Nutcracker, with many little patients in the front row getting up close to the excitement.
Music therapist Bridget Sova expertly performed a series of songs with a live band on-stage, and it’s clear she’s had plenty of practice—perhaps in patient rooms during music therapy sessions.
Keeping with a treasured tradition, Helen DeVos’ grandchildren, Monreau and Olivia, helped hand out scarves to kids at the party.
“We’ve been doing this for years,” said Monreau, a sophomore at Wake Forest in North Carolina. “I love being a part of this atmosphere.
“An important part of the holidays is staying involved,” she added. “It’s really meaningful when you get to see all of the kids with big smiles on their faces … it’s just great.”
“It’s great to be here in Grandma’s hospital,” said Olivia, a senior at Grand Rapids Christian High School. “We look forward to this event every year. It’s a holiday tradition.”
The pair delivered gift baskets and visited a few patients who couldn’t leave their rooms.
Calyce Wilkins, 10, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, has been in the hospital because nerves in her back were bunched together and she needed surgery. Her mom, Rebecca, is hoping they’ll be able to go home for Christmas, but they still aren’t sure.
As Mrs. Claus rubbed her hand and took her Christmas wish list down carefully, Calyce asked for jewelry, perfume, makeup and a computer.
It turned out to be a very special day for one little guy: 2-year-old Russell McQueen, of Mancelona, Michigan. After being in the hospital for a month and five days, he planned to head home with his family right after the party.
“The hospital is just great, top notch,” said Kassina McQueen, Russell’s mom. “But we are certainly ready to go home.”
Russell has stage 3 cancer in his nasal cavity. The family travels more than two hours each way to get to the hospital, and they were glad to make it home together for Christmas.
“We just couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas wish,” Kassina said.