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Spirit of Children Donations Soar in St. Louis

Last year, Spirit of Children, the philanthropic arm of the popular store Spirit Halloween, donated a record amount of money to Shriners Children’s St. Louis. The 2021 total reached $205,633. That generous sum of donations far surpassed the 2020 total of $126,319.

So, how did they do it?

Spirit leadership educated their employees on the mission of Shriners Children’s St. Louis and encouraged those same employees to share that knowledge with their customers. Truly, passion is bred by education when it comes to the Shriners Children’s cause. That’s evidenced by the amazing jump in fundraising.

“We are so thankful for the generosity of the Spirit of Children campaign in St. Louis. The employees’ passion for our patients is evident. We will be good stewards of those dollars – to serve children in need of orthopedic care,” said Mark Venable, interim administrator at Shriners Children’s St. Louis.

Five people during check presentation

Virtual Check Presentation, February 2022

Nationwide, the Spirit of Children campaign raised $16 million last year, offering financial support to 211 pediatric hospitals. The money is intended to help fund each hospital’s child life department. At Shriners Children’s St. Louis, child life is led by Laura Teague.

“Spirit of Children is focused on making sure the child life department is there to provide services to all children in the hospital. We are able to provide the support needed, medical play, surgery preparation, distraction during procedures and many expressive activities to help the pediatric patient cope and make it a positive experience,” said Teague.

Spirit is a collection of seasonal pop-up stores. In the St. Louis area, there are eighteen. Spirit opens for business in late August and closes down by November 1. Their work is fast and furious. It may be a lot of time to sell Halloween gear but it’s not a lot of time to collect donations. The employees work extremely hard to serve Shriners Children's kids.

“The department has been able to purchase virtual reality goggles to help provide distraction during procedures, sport wheelchairs to use with patients during activities, gaming systems for the patients to use, Shadow Buddies to use during medical play and so many other items for the patients,” explained Teague.

In pre-pandemic times, Spirit of Children offered a Halloween-themed party for patients and families. Those gatherings included crafts, games and, of course, costumes. The kids enjoyed picking out their outfits and even shared in a parade.

female patient wearing costume

Patient Grace Anna Saves the Day at Spirit of Children Halloween Party

While these festivities have been pared down to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the fun remains. In 2021, patients were treated to costumes and a small distanced celebration.

There is great hope, as normalcy returns, the larger Halloween parties will reemerge as well.

“There was a little girl, I’ll never forget her. She came in wanting a pair of butterfly wings. We found her the perfect set. She put them on – and that child laid in that bed like there wasn’t a care in the world. She got lost in her own imagination instead of her medical reality. This little girl changed my perspective on our entire mission at Spirit of Children. I’m so thankful our paths crossed,” explained Dawn Svoboda, St. Louis Spirit zone manager.

It’s that level of impact Svoboda works to share with her employees. Most might never step inside of Shriners Children’s St. Louis. However, the impact of their work behind the register echoes for years in our hallways.

She got lost in her own imagination instead of her medical reality. This little girl changed my perspective on our entire mission at Spirit of Children.
Dawn Svoboda, St. Louis Spirit zone manager

As for 2022, we’re still months away from the Halloween season. However, Svoboda’s sights are set on another record year – because changing the life of a child has become the worthy cause of the Spirit organization.

“I’m excited about momentum growing in St. Louis. It brings new life to the stores as well,” she said.

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