When Cranbrook Schools teacher Shelley Chinn connected her students with a Beaumont Hospital volunteer opportunity designed to uplift patients’ spirits during the holidays, little did she know that she’d end up on the receiving end.
Chinn, who has been an instructor at Cranbrook since 1991 and teaches precalculus and geometry, says, “We’re always looking for things for the students to do during the holidays.”
She heard about Moonbeams for Sweet Dreams and immediately wanted to participate.
Moonbeams was created by the Beaumont Children’s Pediatric Family Advisory Council at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, as a way to add a feeling of hope and contentment for kids staying overnight in the hospital during the holiday season.
From Dec. 1-25, pediatric patients on the fifth floor shine flashlights from the hospital windows and look for community members standing outside the hospital to shine flashlights back at them.
Chinn’s busload of students, and hundreds of others, have been involved with the program since it started in 2017. While they’re always extremely heartfelt evenings, Chinn says, they were especially poignant for the teacher that same year.
“After one of our first visits to the parking lot, I came home and told my family what a great program it was,” recalls Chinn, who lives on the Cranbrook campus.
A day or two later, though, Chinn actually found herself on the other side of the hospital windows, looking out to the crowds below. Her then 19-year-old daughter, Abby, underwent a sleep study as part of her regular checkups after being diagnosed with a type of epilepsy two years earlier.
“For the study, they put us in the pediatric wing. There we were, inside the building looking out to the same spot I was the night before,” Chinn says. “I didn’t expect that to happen. I thought they’d put us somewhere else for the study. It was magical looking out. It’s overwhelming, really.”
Chinn and her daughter are just two of hundreds of patients who have witnessed the uplifting event.
“The Moonbeams idea came from Megan McClellan, a local parent and member of the Pediatric Family Advisory Council, who had heard about a similar program at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island,” says Beaumont’s Lisa Muma, RN, a co-leader of the program with Jennifer Dawson (patient and family experience team member), working with Kathleen Grobbel and the Family Advisory Council. Grobbel is Beaumont Children’s child life supervisor.
Since the first year, the program has grown to anywhere from 800 to 1,600 attendees per night.
“It’s a great partnership with the community. We are so grateful,” Muma says.
More than 100 hospital employees volunteer to assist with parking and safety, along with support from Beaumont security and the Royal Oak Police Department.
“Our crowds have been amazing. They’re shining flashlights, singing Christmas carols; they even use the lights on their phones. And we’ve got fire trucks every night,” Muma adds.
Grobbel and her co-workers are creating a “tool kit” to share with other hospitals that may be interested in starting a similar program.
“We want others to be able to do this and not have to re-create the wheel,” Muma says.
And now that December is more than halfway through, if you look up to the fifth floor on any given night during the month, you’re sure to witness something very special.
“The children all receive flashlights; we turn their room lights out,” Muma explains. “Parents and siblings, too, get involved. Many leave their room and walk along our glass walkway. We ask one child to turn on the first light at 8 p.m. And then everyone else starts at once.”
Muma says the kids know that they’re connecting with those outside because of the lights, which appear as hundreds of twinkling stars.
“And they mirror each other,” she says. “For example, the crowd outside will do the wave, and then we do the wave.”
Why December and not another time of the year? December, says the Beaumont team, is the most difficult month to be hospitalized.
“Kids are missing out on school parties and family things,” Muma says. “We want them to know that they’re not alone during this time. They know there’s a community that supports them from their heart.”
Adds Grobbel, “Many children are unable to leave their rooms and can feel isolated in the hospital as the rest of the world continues without them.”
With the help of the community — and folks like Cranbrook’s Chinn and her students — it’s a good bet the kids go to bed with smiles
on their faces and sweet dreams to come. And to all a good night.
SHINE YOUR LIGHT!
WHERE: Each night from Dec. 1 to 25, event participants gather on the sidewalk near the Medical Office Building and across from the east entrance of Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak.
FREE REGISTRATION: Everyone is encouraged to register online in advance at beaumont.org/health-wellness/moonbeams. This will help promote a comfortable flow of people and traffic each night of the event.
PARKING: The community is encouraged to arrive early and allow ample time to park; carpooling is recommended.
Upon entering the Royal Oak campus from 13 Mile, follow the signs to the north parking deck. Parking is available in the two lots across from the north parking deck and just east of the Medical Office Building on the Beaumont campus. For handicap parking, please follow the signs to the handicap lot. From the Coolidge entrance, follow the signs to the Neuroscience Center parking lot. Please note that if the parking areas are full when you arrive, you may wish to return on another night.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: beaumont.org/health-wellness/moonbeams