The Mary Free Bed Halloween Parade provided FHC with opportunities to serve and support

The Mary Free Bed Halloween Parade provided FHC with opportunities to serve and support

Every year, an average of 3 million children are admitted to pediatric hospitals. Whether their stay is short or long term, that kind of life is difficult, especially for children who itch to leave the confinement of hospitals and live out their lives.

Fortunately for patients, Mary Free Bed Hospital is a hospital that encourages a brighter experience for everyone — patients and visitors alike — who walks through its doors. In celebration of Halloween, an Oct. 29 parade was organized for the community to come together and encourage the patients. Senior Sarah Raisch went to volunteer with others and support the kids, in particular her neighbor, Cam Weatherford, who was the leader of the parade.

“It was started by Chris and Jane Weatherford and their son Cam, who has cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills,” Sarah said. “Cam uses a motorized chair to get around, and over the years, Chris has created costumes around his chair that have all sorts of cool stuff like lights and noises. They wanted other kids to have the same opportunity to dress up in such elaborate costumes, and so they started this event to give all kids a chance to have a fun Halloween.”

For Sarah, every time she comes to this event, her experience is purely positive. Seeing the excitement this year from everyone is always heartwarming.

“The whole event was a huge success,” Sarah said. “Almost every kid was smiling, and their parents were also very enthusiastic as they marched along with their kids. A lot of the parents and siblings even dressed up to support them.”

The parade consisted of mostly kids and their accompanying families, but FHC’s marching band was also given the opportunity to join the parade. Because of continuing rainy weather, the parade was forced to be inside, resulting in limited space for the whole band. Luckily for the kids, two of the drum majors were able to attend and represent FHC’s marching band.

Junior and drum major Addy Kaechele was majorly impacted by the experience, and she was glad to have the opportunity.

“It wasn’t the whole band, but everyone just kept thanking us for being there,” Addy said. “It was really sweet. It made me feel really happy that I was able to bring them happiness; it was really fulfilling.”

Accompanying Addy was junior and other drum major Charlotte Delaney. Immediately upon arrival, she fell in love with all of the kids in the parade around her, and throughout the event, she felt honored to be there to brighten people’s days.

“When we first got there, I felt pretty awkward,” Charlotte said. “But then more and more people came up saying that they were so thankful for us being there. By the end of it, my heart felt so full.”

For Charlotte, volunteering has played an increasing role in her life. Because of volunteering and the Mary Free Bed March, her passion for helping others has grown immensely.

“All I could think about was being there for others and wanting to make someone else happy,” Charlotte said. “I’ve been doing a lot more to help out in the community, and it’s a big deal to me now. I want to volunteer more and get involved as much as possible. Wanting to be there for others and getting out to volunteer in the community makes your heart so happy, or at least, it made my heart happy.”

The parade overall was eye-opening for those who went. After seeing the abounding joy from the kids, Sarah came to a realization about the importance of gratitude and supporting one’s community.

“I want to continue to support Cam but also the rest of the kids participating,” Sarah said. “We may take things like wearing costumes for granted, but it’s cool to see how something that may seem insignificant can make a huge impact on those kid’s lives, allowing them to have fun just like all the other kids.”

Like Sarah, the parade also sparked a greater interest in serving the community for Addy.

“Just by going and being there, you’re able to really make their experience a lot better,” Addy said. “It inspired me to want to go out and do more for other people. For holidays and such, I’m just kind of focused on me and what my family is doing, but really, there is a lot of other stuff you can be doing that benefits the community.”

Overall, Addy felt inspired by the parade and experience, and seeing the kid’s reactions to them being there really impacted her.

“The hardest part was knowing that that was their main thing for Halloween,” Addy said. “That was the highlight of their holiday, while I still thought about how I would get to hang out with all of my friends on Halloween. [Still, I was glad to be] going there and showing support for them because it seemed to mean so much to them.”

Charlotte was also deeply moved by the experience and her interaction with the kids in the parade with her. The reaction from the community was amazing for Charlotte because of the deeply rooted encouragement and gratitude.

“I almost started crying because it hurts to know that these kids are probably in pain or are wishing that they could be doing something else,” Charlotte said. “I have it so good, comparatively, and I take it for granted too many times. It wasn’t tears of sadness. It was sad, but also happy because I knew I was there for a reason– like I wanted to be there to make them happier. It was overwhelming seeing all the people want to help them.”

Despite their situation, the kids at Mary Free Bed continue to shine brightly in the community with their positivity, pure joy, and wholehearted appreciation for all they have.

“The amazing thing was that these little kids are in pain, but they could always have a smile on their face,” Charlotte said. “It meant a lot that we went; they wanted us there.”