Community members stand outside the medical building at Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital shining their flashlights up at the pediatric patients to say good night during Moonbeams for Sweet Dreams Dec. 14.

Community members stand outside the medical building at Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital shining their flashlights up at the pediatric patients to say good night during Moonbeams for Sweet Dreams Dec. 14.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


Community unites with ‘Moonbeams for Sweet Dreams’ for pediatric patients

By: Kara Szymanski | Royal Oak Review | Published December 18, 2017

 Participants hold their flashlights during the event as  they watch the pediatric patients’ lights shine back at them.

Participants hold their flashlights during the event as they watch the pediatric patients’ lights shine back at them.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

 Beaumont’s pediatric patients gather in the South Tower hall with their flashlights to shine back at the community below during the event.

Beaumont’s pediatric patients gather in the South Tower hall with their flashlights to shine back at the community below during the event.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

ROYAL OAK — It can be difficult for children to settle in for a good night’s sleep while staying in a hospital. That’s why Beaumont’s Pediatric Family Advisory Council at Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital recently started a new program, Moonbeams for Sweet Dreams, during the month of December for the young patients who may feel separated from the community. 

Every evening in December, pediatric patients will shine flashlights from the hospital windows at 8 p.m. and look for the community standing outside the hospital to flash them back. The event only takes a few minutes, and it means a lot to the young patients and their families.

This is the first year they have held this special program at the hospital, and more than 200 community members attend the event every night. 

There was an overflow of response from the community, and it filled up the SignUpGenius online sign-up tool used by Beaumont Children’s to invite the community to participate. However, anyone is welcome to attend on any night in December without signing up.

Participants from the community gather every night on the sidewalk near the Medical Office Building and across from the east entrance at the Beaumont South Tower in the northeast parking lot.

The community gathers each night to shine “rays of hope” to the children who are unable to go home and sleep in their own beds at night. The event may be short, but the strength and positivity can make the children feel less isolated from the outside world.

Members of the community take time out of their days to stop by the hospital to say good night and put smiles on the children’s faces before bed, and they will do it on Christmas Eve and Christmas day too.

“It’s a win-win situation. The community gets to be part of a great thing, and the patients get a show of support from them. The children are grateful for the support the community gives during their own time. I see people from all over coming to participate in such a great thing,” said Bob Ortlieb, Beaumont’s senior media relations coordinator.

“We adopted the idea from the Iowa football game event and the Hasbro Hospital idea and thought it would be great for our children here to take part in during the holiday season. So, we put our own spin on it. We pass out flashlights to the patients every night. It can be hard to be in the hospital in general as a patient, so it gives them something special and meaningful to be a part of,” said Kathleen Grobbel, Child Life supervisor at Beaumont Children’s.

The new University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital overlooks the University of Iowa’s football stadium, and Hawkeyes fans started a new tradition this year by waving to the patients at the end of the first quarter at home games. Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Rhode Island has a “Good Night Lights” program similar to what is happening now at Beaumont Children’s.

Grobbel said some kids even start early with their flashlights, because they are so excited and look forward to it each night.

“We plan on trying to do it next year also, but might not do it the whole month in December like we did this year. It can be difficult to have a lot of our staff have to be out there every day during this event with all the safety precautions we must follow to keep the patients safe, but it is a nice chance to involve the community,” said Grobbel.

Jennie Penkala, 4, of Sterling Heights, is one of the children who has participated in the event.

“I liked the Santa and seeing all the lights. I also liked my blue flashlight I got to use,” said Penkala, who is treated at Beaumont for a seizure disorder.

She said she looks forward to seeing the lights before she goes to bed each night.

“Jennie has been in and out of hospital for months and has been at Beaumont for four days. She cannot get out of bed and play in areas of the hospital like many other children can, and she must be monitored at all times, leaving her confined to her bed in her room. When she does have to get out of the hospital bed, she is wheelchair-bound, so she can’t even interact with the hospital community,” said Candice Penkala, Jennie’s mom.

The sense of compassion through the event gives her something to look forward to each night and a way to connect to the community. It provides a connection to something other than playing with the toys on her bed, Candice Penkala said.

Many different groups have volunteered to come out to the event and be part of the special moment and contribute to the beams of hope despite the sign-up being full.

Girl Scouts, hockey teams, church groups and more have shined their flashlights to bring the children smiles once more. Also, police departments, fire departments and ambulance workers from different cities have taken the time to come out and show support.

“The ROPD is very happy to join our friends and neighbors in the Royal Oak community with this wonderful idea to help lighten the spirits of children who are struggling with serious medical conditions. ROPD and ROFD vehicles will be out at various times throughout the holiday season,” said Corrigan O’Donohue, Royal Oak chief of police.

Call Special Writer Kara Szymanski at (586) 498-1037.