SALT LAKE CITY -- Many of the kids at Shriners Hospital for Children have a tough time getting around so going to the mall to visit Santa isn’t always an option. That’s why their friends at Shriners bring the fun to them.
The magic of Christmas came a few days early for hundreds of patients at Shriners Hospital. Staff call it Winterfest -- a time for young attendees to be a kid and enjoy the holidays in a safe setting.
“These kids have mobility issues, maybe scoliosis. All of them are working really hard to be more mobile, more productive and active,” said Dawn Wright, public relations manager at Shriners.
Kids took an active interest in a magic show. They got their face painted, treated their stuffed animals to some TLC at a Teddy Bear Medical Clinic. There were tons of activities the whole family could enjoy.
“My favorite part is meeting Elsa, and Anna and Kristoff,” said Zoey Buerk, a patient at Shriner’s Hospital for Children.
Their favorite jolly guy even stopped by – Santa Claus.
Shelly Skuza said her son was excited to see Santa.
Skuza travels from Springville to Shriners twice a month for appointments for her two boys.
“I have an 8-year-old named Skyler with spina bifida and then a 5-year-old named Kai with clef left palate,” she said.
Skuza said Shriners is a life saver.
“It’s been fantastic. It’s free. I can group all the appointments together. They have so many activities,” she said.
Fifteen-year-old Erica Sorenson spent a lot of time at Shriners as a patient.
“In third grade, I had a surgery on my hand. Recently, I’ve been here for scoliosis, which is a back problem,” Erica said.
Today, Erica is giving back by helping kids decorate cookies.
The best gift for parents is seeing the smiles on their child’s face.
“I’m excited for Christmas,” Zoey said.
“It’s a chance for her to get out and see other kids have disabilities just like her,” said Joy Bates, a parent.
The payoff for Shriners is knowing they’re creating lifetime memories.
“It makes us really happy that they’re going to walk away with really warm, positive feelings about the hospital,” Wright said.
Shriners throws big celebrations for its patients throughout the year. The next one is slated for spring – an adaptive Easter egg hunt for children with special needs.