This year has brought unique challenges to Massachusetts General Hospital and its staff, including Anne Pizzano, MS, CCLSJohn Hancock Child Life and Wellness Program manager and Mass General for Children (MGfC) child life specialist. Enhanced infection control precautions have altered patient engagement opportunities, limited volunteers’ access and temporarily shut down the pediatric recreational room. The child life team has been charged with guiding patients and their families through a virus that has many questions and few answers.

The holiday season will appear different for the pediatric units this year as well. Traditionally bustling with visits from Santa via a MedFlight helicopter, the Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox, as well as generous donors, the Child Life team has sought out new ways to celebrate while keeping safety as the ultimate concern.

“Children, their families and our staff have experienced incredible difficulties this year and need some semblance of normalcy. We’re looking at the holidays through a new lens and finding ways to provide comfort and joy,” says Pizzano. “One thing remained constant, the generosity of MGfC’s donors. This year we created a virtual holiday wish list in place of our usual in-person donations to ensure safety for all while still spreading holiday cheer."

In the midst of navigating these holiday difficulties, Pizzano received an unexpected gift of holiday spirit earlier this month when she was holiday shopping for her patients and families. While waiting in line, a fellow shopper noticed her scrubs and the two began chatting about her work at MGfC. The man, who only identified himself as John, thanked Pizzano and the dedicated hospital staff for their work since the pandemic began in early March and insisted on buying the supplies.

“I was touched by his thoughtful gesture,” says Pizzano. “It was a reminder that despite the extreme hardships and difficulties that 2020 has brought, we are all able to come together in the most simple ways to bring cheer and hope to those who need it most.”

Learn more about the Child Life Program.