Before the arrival of the big guy with a fuzzy beard and furry red velvet suit, the children attending a holiday party at Akron Children’s Hospital were enthralled by an assortment of creatures featuring natural fur – as well as shells, scales and tails.
The patients of Akron Children’s craniofacial clinic – and their families – were delighted to freely touch an English angora rabbit, a Peruvian guinea pig and a turtle provided by the organization Our Zoo to You.
With the assistance of an animal handler, they also got to pet a lemur, lizard, raccoon and snake.
The clinic has held a holiday party for its patients for more than 20 years. In addition to the animal encounters, the children played games, made holiday crafts, got their faces painted and, with the help of teen volunteers from the Lake Community YMCA, wrote letters to Santa Claus.
When Santa arrived, children got to hand him their letter and spend one-on-one time talking with him.
“The party is a good opportunity for families to connect with each other and kids to meet other kids who have gone through many of the same experiences,” said Jeni Huth, one of the event organizers. “The mother of one patient was able to meet her parent mentor face to face after exchanging many supportive email and telephone communications. It truly was a feel-good event for the Craniofacial team with a great deal of hugging and words of gratitude.”
The craniofacial clinic team treats children with such conditions as cleft lip and palate and other skull and facial disorders. Each year the team cares from more than 500 patients – newborns through young adults.
“It was a good chance for the kids and their parents to see their surgeons in a more relaxed atmosphere,” said Huth. “It’s truly amazing how much the children and their families appreciate their doctors. This was expressed over and over all night long.”