Mario and Luigi, Olaf, and Groot are just some of the characters you might get to see at the Montreal Shriners Hospital this Halloween — and all in the form of pumpkins.
It started as a simple way to bring a smile to children’s faces, but it’s now something that even the staff at the Montreal Shriners hospital have come to look forward to every Halloween.
Anna Parlapiano began painting pumpkins when her daughter had to have surgery at the Shriners seven years ago.
“I was taking my daughter to physio at the Shriners around Halloween and I felt bad for some of the kids who had to be there for a long time,” Parlapiano says.
“I had already painted a pumpkin and thought it would be a nice gesture to bring one into the hospital.”
It was such a success Parlapiano now paints a different pumpkin for every department at the Shriners and hand delivers them every year.
“It brings me great happiness,” she says.
Staff at the Shriners say the pumpkins are very popular.
“Anna knows the hospital very well and she knows all the themes on the different floors,” says Angie Gugliotti, a child life specialist at the Shriners.
“She matches the pumpkin, the way it’s been decorated, with the theme of that floor.”
Parlapiano begins planning and shopping for pumpkins or squashes in September. Each one takes about five hours to paint and she usually ends up doing around 20 of them.
“The children go around and discover where are the decorative pumpkins and they go see,” Gugliotti says. “They find the minions, they find Olaf, they find Mario and Luigi, so it gives them an activity.”
The pumpkins also send an important message. Admissions officer Danny Scalia says they show children the Shriners is a little different from other hospitals that deal with a lot more serious issues.
They even become parting gifts.
“If I know a kid really likes it, I tell them to come back on the 29th and it’s theirs. And they’re super happy,” Scalia says.
“Sometimes it’s not the amount of the donation but it’s the thought behind the donation, as well, which is fantastic.”
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