Beaumont’s Moonbeams for Sweet Dreams program allows the community to rally together every night during December to show support for kids.

Featured photo courtesy of Moonbeams

Having a seriously sick child is a devastating, heart-wrenching experience. As Rachael Grushko of West Bloomfield said, “It was the worst day of my life.”

In late December 2017, Grushko’s daughter Bella, then 19 months old, was rushed to the emergency room at Beaumont Hospital Royal Oak with an infection-induced fever of 106 that was shutting down her kidneys. They spent the next two days in the emergency room before being moved to a room in the pediatrics unit.

“I was a complete wreck, a total disaster,” Grushko recalled. That night, she glanced out the window and saw many lights shining in the darkness. She didn’t know what was happening, but it looked beautiful, so she picked up Bella, ignoring all the wires attached to her small body, and held her up to see.

Bella smiled for a few moments before falling back to sleep, but Rachael kept watching. “It calmed me down for a moment. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone,” she said.

It wasn’t until the next day that Grushko discovered what it was: Beaumont’s Moonbeams for Sweet Dreams program. During Moonbeams, the community rallies in the courtyard outside the pediatric unit every night at 8 p.m. during the month of December and waves flashlights at the patients to show they’re not forgotten by the outside world.

This year, Moonbeams runs from now through Dec. 25. Lights shine at 8 p.m.

According to Beaumont Children’s Child Life Supervisor Kathleen Grobbel, the program was created by their Pediatric Family Advisory Council after a parent said she’d been in the hospital with a child over the holidays and felt like the world was going on without her. “We thought, let’s invite the community to say good night by shining lights,” Grobbel said. “We figured we’d have a small group; we weren’t sure it would take off.”

Dana, Mike, Max, Jack and Ty Gorman and Jillian, Joey, Carson and Cameron Berger enjoy hot chocolate at Moonbeams last year. Courtesy of Gorman family
When Bella, now 4, was in the hospital at 19 months, her mother Rachael held her up to see the lights. Courtesy of Rachael Grushko

Instead, word spread. People loved being able to do something tangible for sick kids and their families, to bring a little light to their bleak situations.

During 2018, more than 30,000 participants showed up during the month; some nights alone had more than 1,000 people. It gets so crowded that Grobbel warned parking can be a challenge. If you’re going, be sure to arrive early! They also prefer if people register in advance so they can organize volunteers accordingly.

Last year, more than 800 children and their families enjoyed the lights from the inside, not including adults in the intensive care unit and other floors who also appreciated the view. Children gather in the skywalk every night to watch and to shine their flashlights and wave their glowsticks back at the crowd.

“The kids absolutely love it,” Grobbel said. “When we first bring them to the window, they keep asking Why? What is this? What’s going on? Then suddenly, everyone outside turns on their flashlights at once and there’s a whole sea of twinkling lights. It’s so beautiful. They move in unison, like a wave, it’s gorgeous. The kids love watching it.”

In November 2017, Liz Schafer of Birmingham left Beaumont’s NICU/PICU with her newborn. Last year, she brought her kids Alexa, 8, and Ari, 6, to Moonbeams as part of a Girl Scouts activity.

Alexa and Ari Schafer. Courtesy of Schafer family

“It was special for my kids because they knew their baby sister had been in the hospital. It was also a great opportunity to teach them gratitude for their health and compassion for others,” Schafer said. “And it was an incredible feeling seeing the kids in the hospital shine their lights back!”

Beyond families and groups, fire engines and police cars from all neighboring cities show up to add their lights to the display. Firefighters raise their ladders so children can get a thrill seeing these heroes waving right at their windows.

This will be the third year Dana Glasser Gorman of Novi will be participating.

She came with her husband, Mike, and children Max, 15, Jack, 14, and Ty, 6, as well as with friends. Gorman said some nights were cold or rainy, but their slight discomfort was not a consideration when it came to supporting these families who are stuck in the hospital during the holiday season.

“It’s moving every single night,” Gorman said. “It’s truly an amazing event although we always hope they can discontinue it because there won’t be any sick kids to do this for.”

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