NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Inn Celebrates ‘Christmas in July,’ and Siblings Day

Daniel Beltran and Yury Plata Martinez and their daughters take a selfie with Santa.
Daniel Beltran and Yury Plata Martinez and their daughters, Dania, 7, and Luna, 4, take a selfie with Santa, a.k.a. Montgomery County Police Officer Robert “Bobby” Ladany.

Photo:  Jen Forester

Houssam Merehb and his mom pose with Officer Andrew Martinez while shopping for gifts.
Houssam Merehb, 11, and his mom, Fawzieh Merehb pose with Montgomery County Police Officer Andrew Martinez while shopping for gifts as part of the Children’s Inn’s Christmas in July celebration.

Photo:  Jen Forester

Two siblings of children being treated at NIH listen attentively while seated at at table.
Two siblings of children being treated at NIH learn about blood components and how blood is analyzed at the Clinical Center during Sibling Day.

Photo:  Jen Forester

Dania Beltran Plata smiles with Audrey McMaster.
Dania Beltran Plata, 7, smiles with Audrey McMaster, Children’s Inn intern.

Photo:  Jen Forester

Children staying at the Children’s Inn at NIH received a special surprise recently: a summertime shopping spree with Santa Claus and a dozen motorcycle officer elves from the Montgomery County Police Department and NIH.

After greetings and photos with St. Nick, 33 children and their families boarded 2 buses decorated on the inside with red and silver snowflakes destined for Target in nearby Gaithersburg. Santa and his motor elves then escorted the buses with sirens blaring through Bethesda rush-hour traffic.

At the store, children using donated $50 gift cards paired up with police officers to get help shopping for toys. Children and cops dashed through the aisles to find the perfect dolls, clothes, collectible cars, board games, costumes and more. Among them was Luna Beltran Plata, 4, who is receiving treatment at NIH, her sister, Dania, 7, and their parents who enjoyed the chance to celebrate a special summertime Christmas during their extended stay at the inn.

“It was awesome,” Luna’s mom, Yury Plata Martinez of Mexico, said of the event when interviewed by Fox5’s Gary McGrady. “We feel like superstars, like rock stars.”

Santa and his motorcycle officers later escorted the children to a local pizza buffet for dinner.

“This was the third annual Children’s Inn’s Christmas in July, and our children and families had such a great time,” said Stephanie Feinberg, the inn’s family program assistant. “Santa and the officers make this event absolutely unique, and we’re grateful to our donors, the Montgomery County Police Department and the NIH police officers for giving our families the VIP treatment.”

Sibling Day Celebrates Relatives

When a child is seriously ill, his or her siblings take on a special helper role, supporting their sick brothers or sisters in often untold ways. Sibling Day, celebrated every year by NIH and the Children’s Inn, highlights the contributions of healthy siblings—and cousins—and allows them to gain a greater understanding of the procedures their ill siblings undergo at the Clinical Center.

After icebreaker games at the inn, a group of seven siblings and cousins of sick children, accompanied by inn and CC staff, made their way up the hill to the hospital.

A visit to the virtual reality lab was a highlight for many of the youngsters. The lab, set up for medical purposes, looks like a gamer’s dream. To the children’s delight, staff brought life below the sea to virtual life for Sibling Day participants who enjoyed testing the headsets and walking across the ocean floor.

Super sibs also had the chance to learn about CAT scans and, using a model CAT scan machine, test what it’s like to have a scan done. Every one of the siblings and cousins volunteered to enter the noisy white pipe—a procedure many of their sick siblings go through during their visits to NIH.

For Dania, 7, from Mexico, the best part of the day was learning about phlebotomy and blood analysis in the hospital’s laboratory medicine section.

“I learned how blood is taken from the arm,” said Dania in Spanish, her native language. “Because they always do that to my little sister, and I was always wondering what they are doing.”

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Assistant Editor: Eric Bock (link sends e-mail)

Staff Writer: Amber Snyder (link sends e-mail)