A Home for the Holidays


Alex Wood

While holiday music may be blaring from speakers, proclaiming how it’s “the most wonderful time of the year,” this is not the case for everyone in the Ann Arbor area. Mott Child Life, the department of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital that establishes a level normalcy in the lives of hospitalized children, tries to release as many patients as possible for the holidays, but cannot send everyone home.

“We currently fill about 220 beds,” said Byron Myer, the Mott Community Relations Director. “During the holidays, we try and discharge and get them home. I’d say we’ll have at least 150 to 200 kids [still in the hospital].”

Myer is in charge of non-monetary donations and planning events for the hospitalized children.

“Usually we’re trying to do special, unique kind of events,” he said. “You know, a Star Wars event, or a special athlete visit.”

The Mott calendar is full of Christmas-related events for the month of December, culminating in a visit from Santa Claus on Dec. 20. The hospital tries to involve and help families out during their time of need.

“One thing that we’re doing this year is our first ever Mott toy store,” said Myer. “We’re going to be offering an opportunity for parents to come down and be able to go through a toy store

where they’ll be able to get presents for both the patient and siblings… that’s one thing we’re trying to do so that parents have something to give their kids on Christmas morning or during the holidays.”

The children themselves also get to participate in the spirit of giving. The non-profit organization Leah’s Happy Hearts brought in items for the patients to give to their parents.

Kelly Parent, Mott’s Patient & Family-Centered Care Program Manager, works with families to make sure they are included in creating new programs that will benefit thehospitalized. Parent believes that the families of people in care are vital to making the hospital the best that it can be.

“We have 300 patient and family members who volunteer their time as council members, storytellers in classroom settings, and online e-advisors,” she said. “Without their voices, we could not possibly create programs that meet the needs of patients and families.”

Parent and her own family are thankful for Mott Child Life’s services.

“Child Life brought normalcy into our lives at a time when our lives were anything but normal,” said Parent. “Child Life helped staff to treat our daughter as the nine-year-old girl that she was as opposed to a child with cancer. Child Life also helped to integrate her back into the classroom when she returned to school by visiting the class and preparing them for her return.”

Parent’s own family experience has helped her as a Mott employee.

“I understand what it is like to have a chronically ill child,” she said. “I can relate to Mott families in a way that others who have not experienced such fear and trauma cannot. This enables me to establish relationships and help families navigate the healthcare world.”

While the Child Life Program at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital holds events year-round, the holiday period is a very busy one. Mott Child Life receives about 70 percent of its annual donations in the months of November and December. Parent wants to remind people of how important their help can really be.

“Many people want to help families during holidays,” said Parent. “Stuffed animals, toys, and books are donated. Organizations set up ‘Santa shops’ where patients can shop for holiday gifts, and they donate and serve holiday meals on holidays. However, families need helpeveryday. Illness does not take a break. Kids are sick 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.”