Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital hosts 27th annual Christmas party at Grand Rapids Public Museum

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- A special night for kids and their families, as Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital put on its Christmas party for current and former patients Wednesday night.

Most of the kids have had a tough road with the children’s hospital: in and out of appointments, chemo, bone marrow transplants, everything. This is one night out of the year where they can focus on being kids and see many familiar faces at the hospital in a different light.

“We love it," said Erin Hanton. "It’s always a good time.”

Erin’s daughter, Lilly, was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer three years ago. That’s when they first came to the hospital’s Christmas party.

"It was always a morale booster for her when she was sick, but now that she’s better she gets to see the staff members so much less often," said Hanton. "It's really more of that family reunion atmosphere now that we don’t get to see them every week at work.”

The museum hosted the hospital’s 27th annual holiday party complete with food, music, games and of course, Santa Claus.

"To bring a little of the magic and the whimsy and the excitement of the holiday season back into their lives, it’s a very special gift,” said Dr. James Fahner, Division Chief of Pediatric Oncology at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.

Many former patients at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital still attend the annual party.

"We’re really excited to see what they are doing this year," said 13-year-old Lilly Vandenbosch.

Vandenbosch dealt with a rare blood disorder for five years.

"She’s come a long way," said Meg Vandenbosch, Lilly's mom. "She had a bone marrow transplant, so there was like almost a full year where she couldn’t even be in public. Just to be out and in the middle of all of this and seeing other kids, it’s really uplifting, and it does a lot for the morale of the families just to come together like that.”

Everyone’s favorite part of the night was a play put on by hospital staff.

"When they come on stage they’re really funny and they’re interacting with the crowd and it was really cool to see them be more than just doctors and the patients really like that. I know I did," said Lilly Vandenbosch.

"We spent a lot of time at the hospital so they’re like a second family really, so it's fun to reconnect with all of them and see them again, especially here with them being silly and dressed up," said Meg Vandenbosch.

With a new theme every year, this year, The Incredibles Christmas party, it keeps the excitement for families to keep coming back.

"It never gets tiring for the staff because it’s such an important time away from the demands of the hospital and the clinics and most especially for our kids and families, this is a time for siblings and families to be all together," said Fahner.

The event is completely free for the families who’ve been at the pediatric hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplant units at the hospital. There’s even some former patients who still come back and now bring their kids to the Christmas party, so they can see their old doctors from long ago.

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