By Danielle McCarthy
Children’s faces lit up as they walked into the Spirit of Children Halloween party Thursday afternoon at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center. Young patients and their families played fun Halloween games and stocked up on costumes and prizes. More than the free giveaways, kids got an opportunity to take their minds off their stay at the hospital.
“It’s really a good way to get out and not focus on if you’re hurting or not,” said Danaja Casper. The 13-year-old girl from Kempner was decked out in colorful face paint and decorating a Halloween mask at a table with several other children.
“It’s really good because you know they’re not focusing on what pain they have right now,” Casper said.
The smiles on the faces of parents and other family members matched those on the patients.
“This is a great time and it’s just a lot of fun for everybody, I just really enjoy it,” said Michael Anastasio, a Copperas Cove resident and father to two young boys attending the party.
The party was one of more than 100 like it held across the nation, made possible by Spirit Halloween and the company’s Spirit of Children program. The program aims to make hospitals less scary for kids and their families. As part of the program, Spirit Halloween stores throughout Central Texas and around the country collect donations that will go to the child life departments at participating hospitals, such as McLane Children’s. Along with collecting donations, employees from local Spirit Halloween stores, such as those in Harker Heights, Temple, Killeen and Fort Hood volunteered to help run Thursday’s party.
“This is one of the coolest things for us,” said John Domeracki, consignment operator for Spirit Halloween. “The employees really get to experience and understand what they’re collecting donations for and why they’re working so hard for it. We’ve never had a person come to this event and not want to come back the next year.”
Among the dozens of local Spirit employees was first-time volunteer Savannah Morgan.
“It makes me feel great. You get to come out and help other people,” said Morgan, a Spirit Halloween store manager on Fort Hood. “I love helping and seeing the smiles on the kids, it’s really fun.”
Domeracki said the participating hospitals are able to use the donated funds in the way they see best. Earlier this year, he said he had the privilege of attending a ribbon cutting at a new teen lounge at McLane Children’s, created with funds raised through the Spirit of Children program.