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Enthusiasm for costumes, games overwhelms IV lines at children’s hospital Halloween

For a few hours on Halloween, Joshua Summers was like any other toddler: hobbling in a baggy cow costume, a wide grin on his face as he played a game with his mother, Marla.

It was a few hours of normalcy for 3-year-old Joshua and his mom, a distraction from the medicine, the doctors and the stress. Joshua is in treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and has been in and out of Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital since May.

“It’s nice to do normal things,” Summers said as her son chucked beanbag pumpkins at a game board.

Joshua and about 25 other sick children attended a Halloween party at the hospital Thursday. Though many were connected to IV lines, it didn’t stop them from putting on costumes and joining the festivities.

Children moved from table to table collecting candy, decorating cookies and doing ghoulish arts and crafts projects.

Volunteers from Central Valley High School and the Spokane Police Department also attended the party.

Officer Teresa Fuller, a cluster of sparkling vines and a ghost painted on her face, handed a crying little boy dressed as a firefighter a police badge sticker.

Fuller also works with Safe Kids Spokane, part of a national movement dedicated to preventing childhood accidents. Safe Kids Spokane is administered by Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital.

“We’re getting a little more involved with things going on at the hospital,” Fuller said. “It’s been nice.”

Police officers also visited children Thursday at Deaconess Hospital, Shriners Hospital, St. Anne’s Children’s and Family Center and the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.

Nettie Welshons, a child life specialist at the hospital, organized the party. Welshons is responsible for spearheading programs and activities that help kids be kids even when they’re sick. The hospital hosts movie nights and other parties throughout the year.

“Basically, what we try to do is make sure the kids can experience all the holidays,” Welshons said.

The programs are also designed to help the siblings of patients, who may not understand what’s happening to their brother or sister.

Radley McDonald, 6, wore tattered scrubs covered in fake blood to the party, a small mustache drawn on his upper lip. A floor below him, his baby sister, Mallyn, was connected to monitors and machines helping her breathe.

Radley was dressed as Zombie Doctor Rick, inspired by his sister’s cardiologist, Dr. Richard Jensen. Jensen is also Welshons’ fiancé, and the two families have grown close since the 7-month-old girl was born with a congenital heart defect.

Radley’s mom, Ariana McDonald, said Radley wants to be a “heart fixer” when he grows up because of the impression Jensen has made. Programs like the Halloween party have helped him stay happy in the hospital, she said.

“They’ve been really great,” she said. “Even though Radley’s not a patient.”