The walls and hallways at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital are bright and colorful. Friendly staff members have been trained in pediatric care. Every day they make children’s lives healthier and happier. And they provide children with as many choices as possible to help them feel more in control in the midst of a time when everything else in life may feel out-of-control.

Hemby Children’s Hospital encompasses a 43-bed general pediatric unit, an eight-bed pediatric intensive care unit, a 38-bed Level IV neonatal care unit, a 20-bed adolescent behavioral health unit and a 24/7 pediatric emergency department. Much of that space has been turned into a home-away-from-home for chronically ill kids.

But one of the things that remained a reminder of the institutionalized hospital stay was the standard-issue hospital gowns, which are traditionally known for being unexciting, less than buttery-soft, and more than just a little breezy in the back.

On Sept. 21, however, all of that began to change.

Dunkin’ Donuts’ Charlotte franchisees and the hospital co-hosted “Superheroes Rule the Runway,” a fashion show that celebrated the power and heroic braveness of children who have battled or are battling an illness. The children chose a superhero name and superpower before donning a superhero-themed Starlight Brave Gown and strutting their stuff down the runway. Mayor Jennifer Roberts also spoke at the event.

Brave Gowns provide kids in the hospital with high-quality, comfortable, brightly colored gowns. Thanks to a three-year, $1.5-million commitment by The Starlight Children’s Foundation, Brave Gowns will be able to provide kids in hospitals with gowns to wear and enjoy while undergoing treatment. The fun design and full closure back with openings for ports and IVs allow children to be comfortable and in control while they are undergoing treatments. The Starlight Children’s Foundation believes in turning pain, fear and stress into laughter, fun and joy, and that’s just what they have been able to do with Brave Gowns.

The Starlight Children’s Foundation was one of two recipients of a grant from Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins’s Joy in Childhood Foundation. The Joy in Childhood Foundation’s mission is to provide joy to sick and hungry children.

“We’re proud to support Starlight Children’s Foundation and give children at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital who are living with illnesses access to Starlight Brave Gowns, which come in fun, colorful designs that are meant to make them feel like superheroes while reminding them about the joy that being a child can bring,” said Karen Raskopf, Co-Chair of the Joy in Childhood Foundation.

“This event and the donation of these Brave Gowns certainly brought joy into our hospital today,” said Paula Vincent, president and chief operating officer at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center. “It warmed all of our hearts to see the children celebrate like the superheroes they are.”

Photo Credit: Dunkin’ Donuts

This story was written for CharlotteFive’s latest channel for parents in the QC, called QC Playground. Sign up for the weekly QC Playground newsletter here.

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Annie Beth Donahue lives in Indian Trail with her husband Brad, and four children. She is a professional writer for both the web and print, and she can be found at www.anniebethdonahue.com. Annie Beth also has a bachelor's degree in music therapy from Queens University of Charlotte, and has either been working with or parenting children with special needs for the past 18 years. She is a children's book author and the founder and president of Signposts Ministries, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that serves families that have children with chronic health problems or disabilities. In her non-working time, she homeschools and oversees the children's care of their small menagerie made up of chickens, two donkeys, a dog, a cat and a snake.

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