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Holiday Celebrations Bring Smiles to Shriners Children’s Boston

provider with Dianelys

Child life specialist Jackie Raftery celebrates the season with Dianelys during the Shriners Children's Boston annual patient holiday party.

Each year a series of exciting events helps to make the fall and winter holidays brighter for patients and families at Shriners Children’s Boston. Visits from Boston sports teams, Santa and Boston firefighters made this an especially memorable season of surprises. These opportunities not only bring joy to our patients, but they also provide a sense of normalcy and tradition for children spending time in the hospital during the holidays.

The fun began in October with our annual Spirit of Children Halloween party, complete with arts and crafts and costumes. Spirit of Children’s mission is to make hospitals less scary for kids and their families by supporting child life departments at partner hospitals. Each year volunteers from local Spirit of Halloween stores provide supplies, decorations, costumes and spooky fun for our patient party.

On Halloween, patients began the day with a special surprise visit from New England Patriots players dressed as Disney characters. Matt Judon, Vederian Lowe, Chad Ryland, Chris Board, Matt Sokol and Calvin Monson played games and did crafts with patients, while also leaving time for autographs. Later that afternoon patients trick-or-treated throughout the hospital, receiving treats from staff who came to work in costume to add to the fun. An ice cream party hosted by the Ladies of the Oriental Shrine North America rounded out the day.

Patriots player signing autographs

New England Patriots player Matt Judon signed autographs for patients during the team's surprise Halloween visit.

“Patients love the opportunity to interact with players from Boston sports teams,” said Jackie Raftery, MS, CCLS, a certified child life specialist at Shriners Children’s Boston. “It is a way to boost morale and promote camaraderie.”

The Boston Bruins also stopped by Shriners Children’s Boston to spread some holiday cheer. To begin the visit, Bob Sweeney, president of the Boston Bruins Foundation, presented a sponsorship check for $50,000 to Shriners Children’s Boston in support of the 2023 Boston Haunted Walk. Four Bruins players – Charlie Coyle, Trent Frederic, Brandon Carlo and Derek Forbort – had an action-packed visit with patients, including pool, foosball, floor hockey, soccer, and arts and crafts.

Three Bruins players with parent and patients

Boston Bruins players took time for photos with excited patients and families during their December visit to Shriners Children's Boston.

The first of two visits from Santa happened during the annual patient holiday party, a festive gathering hosted by the child life team. “Providing opportunities for normalcy in the hospital throughout the year is a cornerstone of the care that Shriners Children’s provides, but is especially important during the winter holiday season,” said Jackie. “Families of many cultures are here in Boston receiving care during the winter months, and it is so special to witness how they support one another while being away from home during the holidays.”

Santa made one final appearance at Shriners Children’s Boston just before Christmas, making a grand entrance with Mrs. Claus and his elves on a Boston Fire Department ladder truck. This yearly visit is coordinated by volunteers from the Boston Firefighters Burn Foundation and is a highlight of the holiday season. Santa and Mrs. Claus waved to patients in the sixth floor clinic from atop the ladder before coming inside to deliver gifts and meet patients.

The holidays are a busy but fulfilling time of year for everyone at Shriners Children’s Boston. “We look forward to these opportunities to provide a sense of holiday traditions for patients and families,” said Jackie. “We are so grateful to have the support of our community and for our patients to be able to engage in these activities as they navigate a difficult time in their lives.”

Santa and Mrs. Claus with burn patient

Santa and Mrs. Claus visited with patients after arriving at Shriners Children's Boston on a Boston Fire Department ladder truck for a special holiday celebration.

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