Ashlyn Livingston brought tears to her mother’s eyes when she talked about how happy it made her to have Santa and Mrs. Claus and a whole host of cheery holiday figures parade past her hospital room Friday.
Nine-year-old Ashlyn had been at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital since Wednesday, being monitored for seizures, and was hoping to be back home sometime in the next few days. She said she was glad, though, that she didn’t miss the annual holiday parade.
“It just shows you how many people are out there that care,” Ashlyn’s mother, Angela Livingston, said. “It makes you, when you get home and everything’s better, to maybe try to give some of your time and your services to try to make somebody else’s life better.”
Palmetto Health staff and community partners, donning holiday outfits and toting decorated carts and goodies, stopped by Ashlyn’s door to deliver cheer and presents, from stuffed animals to books to candy canes.
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“I think a small gesture goes a long way to them,” said Jennifer Unangst, a hospital pharmacist decorated as a reindeer who, with a group of other pharmacists, handed out candy canes as they pushed a cart playing holiday tunes through the hallways.
For seven years, the parade has lifted the spirits of ill children and their families staying in the hospital around the holidays. Like many events and activities the hospital hosts throughout the year, the parade helps bring young patients a sense of the normalcy of the holiday season, said Christy Fink, the hospital’s child life services manager.
“The very best part of the parade is watching the kids’ faces light up when they see different floats,” Fink said. “Just seeing those little eyes light up, even when they’re not feeling well, because we bring the happiness and joy to them, it makes all the planning and everything so worth it.”
Christian Ingram, 2, smiled shyly in his mother’s arms, waving at the parade passers and hugging a stuffed animal one of them had given him on their way through the hospital. Thanks to the Palmetto Health physicians, he won’t be needing surgery to mend an intestinal problem he’s been dealing with since Sunday night.
Christian and his parents, David and Kiesha Ingram, were hoping to be back home in Hartsville in another day or so. The parade brightened their stay at Palmetto Health, Kiesha Ingram said.
Two-year-old Armani Reed’s mother, Sharon, held her at her doorway as the parade filed through her hallway. Armani has been in the hospital since Tuesday while doctors work on regulating her blood sugar.
“For the children who aren’t able to be home around Christmas, it gives them something to look forward to when they get home,” said Armani’s father, Brandon Reed. “It’s the meaning of Christmas, giving back. It helps the children a lot.”
Santa and Mrs. Claus greeted Armani, Christian, Ashlyn and every other child by name and presented them each with a very special gift: a superhero cape.
Beaming as she held up her pink cape decorated with a sewn-on heart, Ashlyn turned to her mother and then to Mrs. Claus and said simply, “Thank you.”