BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Halloween night is a day many kids look forward to all year. The ability to dress up and travel door-to-door in search of candy is a time-honored tradition for many children — but unfortunately, kids who need urgent medical care may not be able to enjoy the night as they normally would. Thankfully, workers with Sanford Health have devised a ghoulishly delightful way to spread the Halloween spirit to kids in their Children’s Hospital.

Sanford’s ‘Backwards Trick-Or-Treat’ program — in which staff members dress up in costumes and visit the beds of children in the Children’s wing — only began recently, but has quickly become a favorite event for both its staff and patients.

“I worked in Fargo for many years at the children’s hospital before coming to Bismarck,” explains the clinic’s Child Life Specialist Melissa Schmaultz, “and it was something we had done there. I thought it’d be great to bring it to the capital, because we see a lot of patients who can’t go trick-or-treating.”

After the first event in 2022, Schamultz received a tremendous amount of support from other members of Sanford’s staff, many of whom wanted to make sure they were aware of the event so they could participate the next time it came around. During their 2023 Backwards Trick-Or-Treat, a number of individuals from all across the hospital participated — including Case Management workers, representatives from the Sanford Health Foundation, the Child Life Team, and the hospital’s chaplain, as well as a pair of therapy dogs.

This festival is already beloved amongst Sanford’s patients, too — many of whom are happy to have a unique way to celebrate the season without leaving the hospital. Extra costumes are even available in the ward in case children wish to dress up as well.

“I like that they’re giving toys out to the kids in the hospital,” says 12-year-old patient Abury Porter, “so they feel like they can do things. It’s a good thing to do, and it feels good to celebrate.”

Schmaultz hopes to not only continue running the Backwards Trick-Or-Treating event each year in Sanford, but see it grow over the years — and eventually, perhaps spread the idea to more pediatric wards over time. At its’ heart, though, the activity is one with a simple goal: to bring the sweetest time of the year to those who may miss it otherwise.

“Halloween is a big deal for families,” Schmaltz states, “and unfortunately, we also know that children sometimes have to be in the hospital — which prevents them from celebrating it the way they would like to. We know how important Halloween can be for kids, so just being able to provide that sense of normalcy of the holiday is something that means a lot to both us and those we take care of.”

“I think kids here are sad because they can’t be out, and doing things that kids that don’t have to deal with this can do. When you see the smiles on the kids’ faces, it brings you joy.”

To learn more about Sanford Children’s Hospital, visit its page on Sanford’s website by using this link.