A children’s hospital patient admires a doctor in a Top Gun costume. (Photos by Paxton Rountree)

A Columbia children’s hospital didn’t let sick kids miss trick-or-treating.

Prisma Health Children’s Hospital-Midlands has brought Halloween to patients for the past 15 years. COVID-19 brought a new routine that its staff calls “reverse trick-or-treating.”

Hospital faculty and staff dress up and take candy to the rooms of in-patient children in a hallway parade. The kids dress up, too. They bring a costume from home or wear one provided by hospital staff. 

“They just go all out,” said Christy Fink, manager of Child Life and Special Programs. “It gets bigger and bigger every year, and our kids are so thankful because they were worried they were going to miss trick-or-treating.”

Doctors, nurses and faculty members decorate carts and dress up as characters from the kids’ favorite movies and books.

“A lot of them are looking for things that they recognize,” said registered nurse Melissa Henson, who dressed as the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland.

Before the pandemic, hospital staff set up decorated tables in the atrium and let the kids come to them, Henson said. Now, the kids stay in the safety of their rooms to watch the Halloween parade from their doorways.

“Their faces just light up,” Fink said. “They really can’t believe how elaborate the costumes and decorations are.”

The parade offers parents and kids a sense of normalcy during a stressful time in their lives.

“We want to make sure that we’re still recognizing that they’re children, and this is a big holiday for children,” Fink said.

Parents seemed appreciative.

And for kids who will have a longer stay during a rough flu and COVID season, the parade offered something to look forward to.

“We’re trying to make this a memorable Halloween for them, even though they’re in the children’s hospital,” Fink said.

The hospital offers a warm community of support to families while their children are treated, Henson said. 

“We embrace these kids, embrace what they’re going through at the moment, and realize that their little lives have been turned upside down,” Henson said.

A staff member and a patient share a hug.

Goodie bags packed with treats and prizes for the kids.

Nurses decorated their cart with a Minions theme.

The Wizard of Oz cart was a kid favorite.


Leah DeFreitas

Leah DeFreitas

DeFreitas is a senior journalism student at the University of South Carolina from the D.C. area. She recently produced a podcast following a biker gang boss-turned FBI informant. With law school around the corner, she gravitates toward investigation, crime and controversy. A Brazilian vegan Jew and foodie at heart, DeFreitas spends her free time recreating cultural recipes from her travels.

Paxton Rountree

Paxton Rountree

Rountree is a senior journalism major at the University of South Carolina. She’s from New Kent, Va. She is interested in agriculture and has written about Columbia’s farm-to-table movement. She is also interested in sharing more stories about unique personalities and has written about, for example, a professor who teaches simply to impress his in-laws.