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Beacon Children’s patients, families grateful for celebration, support from Spirit Halloween

Olivia Parker

It meant everything to Kaitlyn Parker, and her husband, Kyle, to watch their children last week having fun as they dressed up in Halloween costumes.

And that’s because the past few months have been really hard on their entire family, watching 11-month-old Olivia go through chemotherapy and other treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia at Beacon Children’s Hospital. The fun and distraction of costumes, special visitors and a holiday celebration gave Olivia and her big brother Jaxson, 4, a few hours to spend together and be exactly who they are: kids.

“They were both able to go to the Halloween party, and it was so wonderful to get out of our room together as a family and do something fun,” Kaitlyn said. “We are so grateful for the costumes. It was fun that they could both be able to dress up and just go enjoy the party.”

It is all made possible because of Spirit of Children, the charitable foundation of national retailer Spirit Halloween. It teams up with partner hospitals each year for costume parties and other festivities for pediatric patients and their families. Local Spirit Halloween employees visit Beacon Children’s to provide some much needed distraction for patients receiving care.

More than $110 million has been raised for Child Life departments at over 150 partner hospitals since 2006 in the U.S. and Canada. Child Life is critical to making hospitals less scary for children and their families. When Spirit Halloween customers in Michiana donate in our local stores, 100 percent of the funds go directly to the Child Life team at Beacon Children’s Hospital.

Use this coupon when shopping Spirit Halloween stores to save money and support Beacon Children’s Hospital.

Our local Spirit Halloween stores this season are:

University Park Mall (former Sears). 6501 Grape Road, Mishawaka
Erskine Village (former DSW), 1290 E. Ireland Road, South Bend
Marquette Mall (former Sears), 3901 Franklin St., Michigan City

“Over the last two years, Spirit of Children has donated $69,491 to our Child Life program,” said Jen Tonkovich, RN, Memorial Hospital Director of Women and Children’s Services. “Beacon is fortunate to have such an impactful relation with Spirit of Children. These funds help support Child Life specialist salaries and supplies to support pediatric patients throughout the hospital.”

Pediatric patients like Olivia.

During Olivia’s last two months of treatment, the Child Life team made sure the Parkers had everything they needed, even helping them celebrate Olivia’s first birthday in the hospital. Child Life specialists are trained to help normalize the hospital experience for our young patients and their families.

Kaitlyn described how Child Life Specialist Tracy Byler went out of her way to help the Parkers feel close even when their family was apart — mom and Olivia at the hospital and dad and Jaxson at home.

Tracy helped them track down an extra copy of “The Kissing Hand,” a sweet story about the reassurance of a parents’ love when a child confronts a difficult situation. “This meant we could FaceTime Jaxson at bedtime from the hospital and read the same story together,” Kaitlyn said.

The Parkers are appreciative of the kindness they’ve received from the entire Beacon Children’s team. Olivia is now in remission, but continued treatment is necessary to ensure she stays that way.

“We have been asked why we are not at Riley or St. Jude’s, and my husband and I both say the same thing: We truly feel our care for Olivia here is beyond what we’d get anywhere else,” Kaitlyn said. “We had no idea that Memorial even had a Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Unit, but we are so glad they do, so we can be close to home for our children and not hours away from each other. It has helped us keep some balance and routine during this part of our journey in life.”

About Heidi Prescott

Passionate about writing her whole life, Heidi Prescott joined Beacon Health System in 2015 and currently serves as Senior Media Relations Strategist. A former newspaper journalist who has experience in TV, radio, magazines and social media, Heidi loves storytelling, photography and spending time in nature.