Shining lights uplift hospitalized children at Beaumont

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Royal Oak — Six-year-old Griffin Anderson had waited all day for this moment.

Just before 8 p.m. one night last week, the young boy hopped on a guest bed near the window of his fifth-floor room at Beaumont Children’s Hospital. He started shining a blue flashlight at a crowd of people gathered in a lot below.

He also waved at them. Minutes later, they too shined their own flashlights back up at Griffin, creating a sea of white light.

“About 110,” said Griffin when his mother, Nicole Anderson, asked him how many people he estimated were in the crowd.

For Griffin, the nightly Moonbeams for Sweet Dreams program at Beaumont Children’s Hospital has been the one thing that excites him during a tough time. He was admitted to the hospital on Dec. 10 with a severe bowel impaction, Anderson said.

To help children, such as Griffin, feel less isolated during the holidays, Beaumont has invited community members every night in December to shine lights up at children who look down from their rooms or the hospital’s skywalk.

Beaumont Children’s Pediatric Family Advisory Council organized the effort and plans to continue it through Dec. 31.

“When your child sits in their room all day, and especially when they are so sick that they can’t really leave the room very much, it’s very exciting for them to have something to look forward to all day long,” said Anderson of Madison Heights. “It’s a bright spot in their day.”

About 150 participate each night, said Kathleen Grobbel, who is the supervisor of Child Life Services at the hospital. Her department helps make the children comfortable during their stays.

Grobbel said most of the hospitalized children are in rooms on the fifth floor facing the crowd or gathered on the hospital’s skywalk.

The hospital at first used a digital sign-up sheet to gauge interest from the community. But it’s gained so much momentum that most people just show up, hospital officials say. Firefighters with their trucks and Santa Claus have joined the crowd on some nights.

Grobbel said the Moonbeams program uplifts children dealing with everything from cancer to diabetes and respiratory illnesses. Some of their hospital stays have been long-term.

“It’s really lonely and difficult, especially during the holiday,” said Grobbel, describing what parents in the hospital have told her. “It’s as if the world goes on without you and you’re left in the hospital dealing with this crisis.”

Grobbel said the program is modeled after Good Night Lights at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, which started in December 2015. Each night at 8:30 p.m., lights from high-rises, businesses and police cars are illuminated to say goodnight to children in the hospital.

Steve Brosnihan, Hasbro’s resident cartoonist, said he started the gesture by himself, shining his bike lights up at his patients’ rooms.

Brosnihan later decided to get the public involved by inviting local businesses to join with their lights. Now he is getting calls from cities across the world that want to adopt the tradition.

“It was exactly what I was hoping would happen,” Brosnihan said. “To me, it’s important because it gives the community a chance to be part of something very positive for people who could really use the support.”

Something similar is also being done at the University of Iowa. Fans at Kinnick Stadium wave to children and their families at the neighboring University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital during home football games. This past September, fans added a new spin by turning on their cellphone flashlights during the wave.

Dennis Cowan, former mayor of Royal Oak, said he participated in Moonbeams for Sweet Dreams two nights last week.

Cowan said he relates to the Beaumont families because 32 years ago, he spent three weeks in the hospital in December when his infant son had open heart surgery.

“You can’t help but believe there is goodness in the world with all the bad news we have and to see people come together like this, I think, it’s good for everybody,” Cowan said. “We hope that it helps toward the healing and recovery for both the kids and their families.”

Griffin, a first-grader at Schalm Elementary School in Clawson, is hoping to get out of the hospital in time for Christmas — his favorite holiday.

He’s missing a lot of the holiday activities at school, but participating in Moonbeams every night is helping keep his spirits high, his mother said.

Last Thursday was the first day Griffin was detached from IV tubes and had the most energy since he was first admitted, Anderson said.

“He looks forward to this part of the night the whole day,” she said. “It makes you feel good to know a community will still come together for something like this.”


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Twitter: @NicquelTerry