'Trick or Suite': 90 families with seriously ill children celebrate Halloween in Markham hotel

Ninety Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada families from the Greater Toronto Area enjoyed a safe and unique trick-or-treating event, including an overnight getaway at a hotel in Markham on Oct. 22.

Designed for kids of all ages and abilities, families got a chance to visit 30 fully decorated hotel suites with different themes, activities, treats and giveaways. Some themed rooms featured a therapy puppy, a skeleton rock band, and an Encanto.

“We’ve held many Halloween events through the years; however, due to the pandemic, many have unfortunately been put on hold over the last couple of years,” said Trevor Dicaire, executive director from Starlight’s Toronto office, noting that Trick or Suite truly is a family favourite event, and many families were so excited that it was back this year.

For some children, Trick or Suite is the first time they were able to enjoy the full trick-or-treating experience. Whether they live with a compromised immune system that makes visiting numerous homes a health risk, or they live with accessibility challenges that make it hard to travel from door to door, Halloween has been difficult for some families.

The event is part of Starlight Canada’s Great Escapes Wishes program, where Starlight families are brought together through events that help create new memories and new friendships.

“For families with children facing difficult diagnoses, medical challenges, or accessibility obstacles, they can often miss out the everyday experiences the rest of us get to enjoy,” Dicaire said.

When all a child may know is hospital visits or medical worries, distractions and events like these are crucial for their mental well-being and to remind them that they can do anything.

One of the parents, Bridget Ku, attending the event with her little son, said the experience on Saturday was amazing.

“We’ve done quite a few events with Starlight, this is the first time doing the Treat or Suite, and they really went all out, this is amazing,” she said.

Ku also affirmed the benefits such an event would bring to the kids. “It’s nice to be outside and spend time with other special needs families. Starlight always create amazing spaces for kids to be kids like themselves, it’s really great for their mental health and well-being.”

It’s Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada’s mission to do what no medicine can do — create priceless smiles and memories for seriously ill children and their families. For more than 30 years, Starlight Canada has been spreading joy to sick kids across the country through a unique blend of hospital to home programs designed for the whole family.

“We are currently getting ready to spread lots more smiles this holiday season. Starlight children and their families from across Canada will be treated to private, VIP shopping sprees at their local Toys “R” Us Canada store this December before or after hours,” Dicaire said. He hopes families and children who meet through these events go on to make lasting connections, friendships, and support systems for life.

More information about Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada is available at https://www.starlightcanada.org/.

Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Economist & Sun