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Dancing penguins, a troop of Oompa Loompas, and countless cartoon characters greeted patients at Stanford Children’s Annual Trick-or-Treat Trail. This event allows kids undergoing medical care to experience Halloween even while in the hospital.


Care team members, staff, and volunteers hosted over 50 colorful trick-or-treat booths, with themes from Harry Potter to farm animals to Ninja Turtles. Among the volunteers bringing smiles to patient families was one special group of Barbies: members of the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health board of directors.

Board members Kate Dachs, Julie Lee, Hilary Valentine, and Nina Wanstrath handed out light-up bracelets, heart-shaped sunglasses, and sweet treats at a bright-pink Barbie-themed booth.

“This is joyful and creative and energetic – a beautiful day,” says Nina. “I’m really grateful to be here.”

Among the families Foundation board members connected with were Ly Phan and her 2-year-old son Axel, who dressed as Mario and Luigi.

“We’re here for an undetermined amount of time so just to be able to bring a little bit of the childhood fun and festivities to him is really nice, since he’s missing so much of it,” Ly says.

Board members Kate and Julie can relate to Ly’s experience, having spent time at Packard Children’s with their own children.

“We both had children that were in the hospital for a holiday, so we are very grateful to be able to celebrate with families in this way,” Kate says.

“We love the idea of bringing Halloween to the kids and the staff,” Julie says.

Inside the hospital,  child life specialists  and care team members delivered more than 150 Halloween treat bags filled with toys, coloring books, and snacks to patients who could not physically attend the event.

“We see kids go through so much trauma, and it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that they are missing out on the day-to-day routines of normal childhood,” says child life specialist Laura Wassermann, who has joined the event for four years. “It’s really special to give them an experience that every child should have.”

For the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health staff and donors, the event was a meaningful opportunity to connect to the hospital’s mission. “This is an amazing day of fun for kids who really deserve it. It’s awesome to be able to bring so much joy to the kids,” says Kate Powerman, director of community fundraising at the Foundation.