‘It’s what she would have wanted’

The spirit of Helen DeVos was felt amid the holiday joy at the annual Christmas party.

Toys, crafts, sweets, dancers and lots of good cheer—the Christmas party at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital had it all.

“It’s fun,” said Tabitha Fuller, as she browsed the gift table, cuddling a soft teddy bear.

The 7-year-old girl from Belding was delighted to discover the party after she finished her doctor’s appointment.

“She missed her school party today because she was here,” said her mother, Dawn Parrish. “This is going to make her really happy.”

Bringing holiday joy to kids amid the challenges of medical care is the goal of the annual event, which has been long supported and nurtured by Helen DeVos. The event on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017, was the first holiday party at the hospital since the death of DeVos on Oct 18, 2017.

Her spirit lived on in the four generations of her family who joined the gathering.

“She was a great woman and a wonderful wife,” said her husband, Rich DeVos. The Amway co-founder and philanthropist looked around at the festivities and said, “We’re honored to be here.”

He praised the “people who work in the hospital and make these wonderful miracles happen. It takes people to help people.”

As part of the celebration, the DeVos family provided gifts for the child life specialist program at the hospital. They included a range of items to improve quality of life for infants through teens, including a virtual reality technology unit, strollers, mobiles and weighted blankets.

Coming to the party and supporting the work of the staff “means everything,” said Cheri DeVos, the daughter of Rich and Helen.

“It’s what she would have wanted,” she said. “She was so keen on continuing the efforts of the hospital and making sure they didn’t ever falter.”

The items used by the child life specialists “were really, really important to her and therefore they became very important to us―even more so, now that she’s gone,” she said.

Also attending the party were two of Helen DeVos’ great-great-grandchildren, Clara, 6, and Sloane, 4, who came with their parents, Rick and Melissa DeVos.

“We are missing her very much,” Rick said.

He remembered helping his grandmother prepare for the annual Christmas party years ago.

“We used to go to Toys R Us together and pick out gifts, and we’d have a wrapping party at Grandma and Grandpa’s,” he said.

Even at 6, Clara had a sense of the tradition involved, Melissa said.

As they talked about their plans for the day, Clara told her mother, “I know why we are going to the children’s hospital. We are going to see the kids that are there. And it’s also for Grandma Great, because she would have been there.”

Robert Connors, MD, the president of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, spoke of the “magic of the partnership” between the DeVos family and the hospital named after Helen DeVos.

“Out of that has come joy―joy to the world and joy to our children,” he said. “When we celebrate the joy of this season, we will always feel Helen’s spirit is here with us.”

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