Hare-raising visit brings Easter to young patients who can’t be home for the holidays

Apr 14, 2023

Peter Cottontail took a momentary detour off the bunny trail Friday to bring some cheer and goodies to several young patients at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital & Medical Center and their grateful parents.

The trip was arranged by specialists at the center in conjunction with Toyota of Huntington Beach and the Starlight Children’s Foundation, who provided books, toys and treats to be hand delivered to kids in the pediatric and neonatal intensive-care units who won’t be able to make it home for Easter.

It’s just one of a few things hospital staff have arranged to liven things up in the week leading up to the holiday, said child life specialist Adrienne Feilden, whose job is to help kids feel as normal and happy as they can be, even through tough times.

“A child’s work is play — when they’re not sick, they’re usually out playing, engaging in activities at school, playing with their peers,” she said. “So it can be a real disruption when they have to go to the hospital.

“We want this to be a positive place, where they can continue what they do at home,” Feilden continued. “That’s our ultimate goal.”

Feilden and her team have set up egg hunts for young seekers and passed out other springtime treats, including Easter baskets created by Huntington Beach resident Sharon McHenry, who started the practice with son Neil as a Scout project about a decade ago and never stopped.

But Friday’s visit was the main attraction, as the Easter Bunny led a small entourage into the hospital building and to the NICU to greet parents watching over tiny newborns. After that, it was on to pediatrics.

Feilden said the festivities are as much for moms and dads as the patients themselves.

easter-bunny-2-300x200“Parents, out in the community, will take their kids to get a picture with the Easter Bunny, so it’s a pick-me-up for the parents,” she said of those in pediatrics. “It’s great for our NICU families too, because it’s a long-term stay a lot of times and they haven’t been home yet, so any little perk like that can be so meaningful.”

Friday’s visit meant the world to Karen Ayala, a Baldwin Park mom who’s been at Fountain Valley Regional with 4-year-old son Aiden for the past two weeks. Recovering from a ruptured appendix that became infected, Aiden is expected to spend at least another week in the hospital.

It’s a bummer for Ayala, who typically celebrates Easter with her extended family but cannot continue the tradition this year. Watching Aiden’s face light up as he saw the Easter Bunny approach was a pretty nice consolation prize.

“He hugged him and everything,” she said. “He was just grabbing toys — he was so excited. I’m grateful for all of [this].”

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