“Strong is the new beautiful.”
The 3-year-old girl wearing the inspiring message, emblazoned on a pink T-shirt, wanders around the Balk Café with a bag of new toys and a smile.
The Summer Fun Party at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital allowed little Nora Michelson and her family to unwind after a lengthy round of checkups and testing.
When she was just 7 months old, doctors diagnosed Nora with neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer. The Traverse City girl has been treated at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital ever since.
Regular visits to the hospital are routine for the Michelson family. As Denise Schmidlin watched her granddaughter explore the bubble wall, get a caricature drawn and play games during the summer fun event, she reflected on the caregivers Nora has encountered.
“It is not just a job to them—it’s their calling,” Schmidlin said. “It’s the family we never thought we would have.”
Tears welled in her eyes as she shared how the staff and people who interact with Nora on a daily basis are always passionate and fully engaged with the children.
“It’s been a blessing,” the nurse of 40 years said. “The (children’s hospital team) is a Godsend.”
The annual party offers children like Nora, who are in the hospital for treatment, an opportunity to play and enjoy summer-themed activities.
The Child Life team knows how to make a party fun. Tropical flowers, grass skirts and fruit punch brought the beach to the Balk Café.
Kids enjoyed caricature drawings, creating wind chimes and playing cornhole with hot dogs in hand.
The injury prevention team also participated, handing out properly fitted bicycle helmets to patients who do not have helmets at home. The team seeks any way to connect with parents and children, educating them on proper helmet usage, hydration and water safety.
The Grand Rapids Police Department organized one of the most popular activities at the party—the helmet guessing game. Eight kinds of athletic helmets lined a table and children guessed which helmet aligned with each sport. The winners received prizes that included books, Barbies and other toys.
Sgt. Brendan Albert and other police officers jumped right into the fun, playing non-stop cornhole games.
“We just do whatever we can to help,” Albert said.