Conjuring up some Halloween fun

“It’s not just about the kids in the hospital, it’s about the families, too,” said Elizabeth Gutierrez.

Her 1-year-old son, Leonardo, who is fighting cancer, dressed as an elephant and joined about 20 pediatric and neonatal intensive care unit patients at a Halloween celebration hosted by Children’s Hospital University of Illinois Oct. 31. Gutierrez’s daughter, Valentina, also came to visit dressed as Dorothy.

The annual celebration included a trick-or-treating costume parade, face painting, pumpkin decorating, games, music and a pizza party.

Staff dressed up as “Trolls” characters, Minions and “spice girls,” wearing red aprons displaying the names of cooking herbs like sage and thyme, and passed out treats and gift bags to patients as they walked around the hospital in costumes that ranged from superheroes to bumble bees. Volunteers made costumes for babies in the NICU.

“Being in the hospital does not change the fact that kids need to play, laugh and celebrate,” said Dana Thornquist, child life specialist at the hospital.

“The staff really goes all out for this, and one child told me today was the best Halloween he’s ever had,” said Beena Peters, associate chief nursing officer, noting that the hospital’s mission is to serve kids from low-income families who may not have resources to splurge on costumes and candy every year.

“This party allowed kids to experience a fun Halloween, and help them forget that they are sick,” Thornquist said. “I think they all felt very special today.”