A baby’s first Halloween is always special, but for preemies in the NICU ward of Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn and Park Ridge, Illinois, their first Hallow’s Eve was just a little extra special this year.
According to the hospital, 40 babies participated in the annual Halloween contest, which has been held at ACH for the past several years. And (spoiler alert) … the photos, which are now going viral on the hospital’s Facebook page, are incredibly adorable.
There’s a pint-sized Where’s Waldo …
… and a little Moana:
There’s even a mini Han Solo!
And of course, Yoda!
While this little guy sure looks like Chewbacca at first glance, he’s actually a cuddly teddy bear.
Many of the costumes are lovingly handmade by the parents themselves.
And when that’s not possible, parents go all-out decorating the walls of their baby’s incubator.
If you’re wondering how the staff at ACH manages to pick a winner from such an adorable group every year, they actually don’t have to. The hospital posts each baby’s photo to their official Facebook page, where the photo with the most likes nabs the top prize — a $150 gift card to Target. (Pretty sweet!) Runners-up also go home happy with gift cards ranging from $25-$50. This year’s contest ends November 1 at 5 pm Central Time.
But in the end, the contest isn’t really about the prizes. It’s about lifting the spirits of the NICU parents, who are often grappling with a wide range of emotions while being unable to take their babies home.
“It was important to participate in this event because I wanted to make memories,” shared Vivian Dimas, in a statement from the hospital. “I wanted Jovanny to have a memorable first Halloween and didn’t want our stay in the NICU to change that.”
Dimas’s son was dressed as a “NICU inmate,” with a costume that included a sign reading: “Charges 1st Degree: Impatience. Busted out Early.”
Dimas says she wanted to bring some humor Jovanny’s costume — and it certainly seems she did.
According to ACH, Jovanny arrived in August at just 27 weeks, which was one week before his mom’s baby shower was set to take place. At birth, he weighed just over 2 lbs., but today, Jovanny is a healthy 6+ lbs. and is due to go home this week.
There are so many stories just like Jovanny’s at ACH, and so many parents like Vivian, who do their best to make the best of an otherwise difficult situation.
And when it comes to the annual Halloween contest, they’re always more than eager to join in.
“The parents come up with everything!” says Sarah Scroggins, the social media director at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “They are so thrilled to participate and create some of their first family memories with their little ones.”
The nurses and doctors first must determine if the babies are medically fit to participate in the contest, and if they are, NICU staff help make sure the babies are dressed safely in their costumes.
The holiday fun isn’t just reserved for Halloween, though. According to Scroggins, the NICU staff at ACH loves helping families celebrate the holidays, and often dress up themselves.
“They know that this brings a bit of normalcy to these families while being in the hospital and unable to join in on activities at home or elsewhere,” she tells Babble, adding that there’s also an annual 4th of July NICU parade every year and of course, Santa always makes a visit.
But there may need to be one new addition to the fun this year, says Scroggins: a “cutest elf contest.”
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see those photos.