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Child life specialists prepare "magical" holiday season

Monday, December 17, 2018
By John McHenry
Carolina Hurricanes players with Duke Children's patient

Through strong teamwork and a collective commitment to put the person who needs our care at the center of everything they do, child life specialists have prepared an exciting holiday season for patients at Duke Children’s.

The team, Michelle Ashford and Elizabeth Beaver, who also serve as Santa’s elves, have arranged for Santa to visit all patients who would like to see him. In addition, they have helped Santa prepare gifts for each and every child in the hospital. Those gifts will be distributed in pillowcases by Santa on Christmas Eve morning, before he leaves for the rest of his journey Christmas Eve night.

Patients will also be visited by the Carolina Hurricanes, Miss North Carolina and the Durham Bulls mascot throughout the month of December.

“The Child Life team, along with all of the other professionals in the hospital, works incredibly hard to make this season special for our patients and their loved ones,” said Michelle Ashford, CCLS, a certified child life specialist and a “head elf” for Santa. “Helping coordinate all of the donations and events, and helping Santa prepare his gifts for each child is a huge undertaking. We are constantly communicating with each other throughout the month to ensure that all of the needs of our patients and families are met.”

Ashford said that this season in the center is “magical” for patients and families. And, that is because of the compassion and dedication from her team, and members of the community who donate toys and gifts.

“Making the holiday season special is a labor of love, but it’s totally worth it,” said Ashford. “To see the joy of patients and their loved ones during this season is amazing. I believe in magic because I’ve seen it happen, right here on the pediatric units of Duke Children’s.”