Hispanic culture activities help kids during treatments at DHR Health in Edinburg

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Friday is the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, and a local hospital has been spending it celebrating with children in their pediatric unit.

Hospitalized children often deal with a lot of stress and anxiety, so the DHR Pediatric Unit combined play with culture to help young patients get through it.

“I am nine years old and I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia,” said Rachel “Grace” Garza, a cancer patient at DHR.

Grace Garza has been in and out of the hospital for just under a year and a half fighting cancer. She endures lumbar punctures and chemotherapy as part of her treatment.

“We do have difficult times here in the hospital. Many tears are shed. She goes through a lot of pain and the majority of the time she says ‘I want to go home.’ She feels safe at home,” said Grace’s mother, Rachel Garza.

So DHR certified child life specialist, Edith Castillo, uses play activities to create a sense of normalcy and help children, like Grace, cope.

“The toys and games allow them to have fun interactions with their families, as well as just providing a way to forget about their illness or their treatment or why they’re in the hospital to begin with,” Castillo said.

“It helps me a lot when I’m going through treatments because it gets my mind off of it,” Grace said.

And during Hispanic Heritage Month, Castillo planned a fun activity for each week.

“We made a little piñata that actually works,” Grace said. 

And with the help of the Starlight program, DHR is able to provide kids with several play options at the hospital, like the Nintendo Switch Starlight gaming console and Starlight virtual reality.

“We really focus on trying to bring fun, comfort, custom technology and entertainment to these kids because we feel that happy kids heal faster,” said Sara Hewston, senior manager at Starlight Children's Foundation. 

On behalf of the toy company, Mattel, Starlight also donated toys that represent children of all demographics, including Hispanics.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Starlight program or getting involved, you can visit starlight.org.


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