Children at the UIHC celebrate the holidays


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For one evening, the gymnasium echoed with the laughter of children. For one night, the children were able to escape from their hospital rooms above. On Tuesday, Santa Claus’ arrival brought squeals, glitter-covered stockings, and toys laid out like a buffet.

The Iowa City Jaycees chapter on Tuesday evening threw its annual holiday party for children who sleep at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, providing a much-welcomed distraction for eight children and their families.

“Most of the time during the day, kids aren’t that busy,” said Matt Kidwell, the father of UIHC patient Carson Kidwell. “It’s nice to have activities to get them out of the room and their mind off why they’re in the hospital.”

For many parents and guardians, giving the kids a sense of normalcy is incredibly important.

“I love [the activities],” said Brandy LeClere, the aunt of patient Trinity Chadwick. “It gets her out of the room and lets her be a little kid.”

Trinity is only 7, and she has been in and out of the hospital since May for chemotherapy. She has osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer. For most of the evening, she bowled with a pink ball and a very colorful set of pins.

“I like bowling,” she said.

Even though Trinity could bowl a strike, it did not take long to forget the machine hooked to her arm. Every time she threw the ball, someone else had to retrieve it. Chasing after the ball was no easy task.

Distraction may have been important to many, but for one parent the party played another role.

“I think [it’s important] so that the kids can get together and see that there are other children in the same situation,” said Sherry Peters, the mother of patient Andrew Peters.

Some of the children are having short stays at the hospital, while some were extended.

“I think it’s a great activity for the children who have to stay here for long periods of time,” said Lizeth Gaucin, the mother of 2-year-old Audrina.

Gaucin also appreciated that a Santa Claus came in to welcome the children, especially because some children can’t go out to a mall to see one.

“It’s a really good idea,” she said. “A lot of little kids look forward to that time of year. To them, it’s a big thing to see him.”

However, not all of the children were convinced.

“It’s not the real Santa,” Carson said, who was in the hospital for surgery on his infected knee.

He insisted the real Santa was at home in the North Pole.

Other small reminders snuck up that the children were in a hospital — one child arrived in a wheel car. However, officials insist this makes the party all the more vital.

“Trying to recognize special events in a child’s life contributes to healing,” said Gwen Senio, the hospital’s manager of the child-life program.

Which is where Jaycees comes in.

“There are a lot of reasons [we do this],” said Levi Good, the president of the Iowa City chapter of Jaycees. “The biggest one is there are so many displaced families and kids here at the hospital during the holidays. So we just want to lighten their mood a little bit and give them a good day.”

The Jaycees raised roughly $500 to pay for the crafts, games, toys, and gift cards — the proceeds came from the organization’s “Field of Screams” event. Nicole Pearson, in charge of community individual development at Jaycees, said the group has hosted the party for more than 10 years.

And for those at Jaycees, tradition may be best. There are mixed feelings about growth for the program.

“The unfortunate things is the more people we have here is that many people are at the hospital,” Good said. “If we can keep it low, that means everyone is doing well.”

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