RJ enjoys getting out of his room with Care Partner Khayla Jones for the Winter Carnival. (Photo by Dylan Deprey)

Santa and his elves took a break from the toy shop and descended upon Children’s Hospital to celebrate the Winter Carnival with the kids and their families on Wednesday, Dec. 11.

Holiday music filled the lobby at Children’s Wisconsin. From gingerbread houses and reindeer races, to hot cocoa and sweet treats, the kids were ecstatic and the parents were relieved. Whether it was chilling with therapy dogs or on Santa’s lap, the hospital gowns and heart monitors disappeared, and pure happiness replaced uncertainty for a few hours.

“Most of the time the kids don’t get to see stuff, they’re mostly in their rooms and it gives them a chance to get out,” said Khayla Jones, Children’s Hospital Care Partner.

Jones wheeled down her buddy RJ to get a free Dairy Queen Blizzard and a present. No wheel chair was stopping him from having a good time, as he sported a Santa hat and a lap full of cookies.

Isaac and Jayden Ragsdale are all smiles after talking to Santa. (Photo by Dylan Deprey)

“I’m having fun,” RJ said. “I think this is good for the kids in the hospital that don’t have family members that are able to come around because when they get down here they’re surrounded by cool things and cool people.”

Maggie Butterfield, Executive Director of Amenities and Family Services said the Winter Carnival was a way to give families an opportunity to come together during a busy time that may separate families.

“It’s hard to be in the hospital any time of year, it separates families and it’s always difficult. The holidays add to that and make it extra difficult,” Butterfield said. “We work very hard to include all the children and families in to giving them some sense of normalcy in the abnormal place that is hospital.”

Patients and their families play holiday carnival games and crafts. (Photo by Dylan Deprey)

Brittany Harla said the carnival made her and her sons’ day. She said her son Jayden has never really stayed in the hospital, and even with his mom and brother, two days felt more like two weeks. When they stopped down for the Winter Carnival their mood totally changed.

“We just heard about this today” Harla said. “They got toys and took pictures, and he’s with his brother, so it was a good experience rather than just sitting in the room watching TV.”

The Winter Carnival also doubled as a special topping off ceremony for the new construction project currently being built next door.

Butterfield said that over the past few months, a construction beam has been in the lobby for staff, families and patients to sign.

The honorary beam being lifted onto the new Children’s Hospital extension. (Photo by Dylan Deprey)

“The beam has messages of hope, and messages of excitement,” Butterfield said.

She said the beam signified a united front in the name of children’s healthcare, whether they were wearing scrubs or a hard hat.

As the children counted down, the beam was lifted into place, and the festivities continued. Though Santa returned to the North Pole, an empty seat was replaced with a table full of presents.