SickKids comes together to bring the Halloween atmosphere to patients and families
By Ana Fernandes, Intern, Communications and Public Affairs
Pumpkin spice smell is in the air and spooky decorations are all around. Kids, and many adults too, look forward to that last day of October when they can finally put their costumes on and go trick-or-treating.
For many decades, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) has embraced the festive traditions to bring Halloween’s fun atmosphere to its patients. What started as staff dressing up for the kids and small parties in the 1970's is now a day of activities including face painting, a costume shop, a costume and a pumpkin carving contest for staff and patients, as well as a scavenger hunt throughout the hospital in place of traditional trick-or-treating.
“Halloween is certainly one of the biggest events we promote at the hospital and it is quite significant for most of our patients. It’s a great way to offer an experience that is similar to what they would be doing outside of the hospital either at school or at home, helping to normalize their experience while they are here,” says Andrea Fretz, Child Life Specialist in Centralized Programming and Events with the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Child and Family-Centred at SickKids.
“During Halloween, we really get a sense of the SickKids community. Patients and families are invited to move around the hospital and check out all the events; it’s a lot of fun. If you consider the number of people engaging together in the same activity, there is nothing throughout the year that we do that compares to this,” says Fretz.
From a therapeutic perspective, special events like Halloween help alleviate some of the stress families and patients might be under. Fretz explains that getting out of their rooms for a fun event with lots of visual elements can help families hit the ‘pause button’ on treatment talks for a little bit, while also being a great chance to socialize with other families.
“It’s great opportunity for patients and families to step outside of their comfort zones. They dress up as something completely different, maybe unrecognizable, so they might be able to shift their focus from aspects of what they are going through and feel that release. As Child Life Specialists, our goal is to provide opportunities to normalize the hospital experience, to create distractions in ways that will help them to heal, and to have opportunities to release stress and anxiety through fun programming. It is also a chance to socialize and meet other people who might be going through something similar.”