March is Child Life Month; it’s a time to recognize the awe-inspiring work that child life specialists do to make the hospital experience feel safe, supportive, and fun for young patients.

Each year at Spirit Halloween, we devote months of planning and preparation to bringing the magic of Halloween to life. Why? Because it’s seriously fun.

The benefits of fun are far-ranging. It can reduce stress, ease anxiety, and support a healthy immune system. This idea that an uplifting environment can promote healing has inspired many hospitals to create Child Life departments. Child life professionals work to diminish the impact of traumatic events on the development and well-being of infants, children, teens, and families.

Child life specialists provide crucial non-medical care, primarily through education and therapeutic play. These dynamic professionals offer custom services for each unique patient: pet therapy for emotional wounds, operating room tours for families who don’t know what to expect, bedside sensory activities for those who need a distraction from an uncomfortable procedure, and so much more.

Spirit of Children, often referred to as the heart of Spirit Halloween, is a program devoted to funding Child Life Departments in hospitals across the United States and Canada. Since 2007, Spirit of Children has collected over $77 million in cash and merchandise to support Child Life Departments and their indispensable specialists.

Despite its many challenges, 2020 was a record-breaking year for Spirit of Children. In a year awash with uncertainty, Spirit of Children raised a jaw-dropping $12.4 million for 147 Child Life Departments. That’s $12.4 million for toys, educational equipment, and developmental aids that work to make hospitals less scary for kids and teens.

The COVID-19 pandemic required many children to remain isolated in their hospital rooms. In October of 2020, Spirit of Children surprised 147 partner hospitals with care packages full of treats, costumes, and activity books. This gesture was inspired in part by the compassion of child life specialists who work to restore comfort and clarity to vulnerable people.

In addition to purchasing sensory and recreational aids, these funds will be used to hire additional Child Life staff. This is especially exciting, as the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) announced in early 2021 its Emotional Safety Initiative. This program is a movement to treat emotional safety with the same degree of priority as physical safety in the pediatric medical setting. Stress has lifelong health implications, especially in the formative childhood years. Child life specialists provide evidence-based, individualized care in an effort to lessen this stress.

You can support child life specialists and their essential work by donating to Spirit of Children. 100% of every dollar donated to Spirit of Children supports the Child Life department at a partner hospital in your local community.