MUSC gives kids with Diabetes reason to party on Halloween

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - The Halloween season makes most kids giddy to dress up in a costume and gather as much candy as possible on a trip around the neighborhood. For some children, Halloween isn't that pleasant of a holiday.

"Halloween is always thought of as a part of the year with candy and sweets, that's the focus. For kids with Diabetes, Halloween can often be a really sad time because they feel left out," said MD Deborah Bowlby with Pediatric Endocrinology at MUSC.

MUSC "Gives Back" Student Volunteering and the department of Pediatric Endocrinology threw the 16th Sugar Free Fall Festival Halloween Party on Thursday to give children with Diabetes a Halloween they can celebrate.

"This party focuses on the fun, the games, a costume contest and it's fun because it's a party for them," said Bowlby.

The American Medical Student Organization started the party 16 years ago, and MUSC student groups, from all six schools within the medical university, have made it possible every year since.

"We want these kids to participate in Halloween and it's hard when it's so surrounded around the food," said Shannon, volunteering with Family Medicine Interest Groups. "We want them to celebrate here like any kid should."

30 different student groups organized games like cornhole, bowling, and a fishing-for-candy game to win prizes - of course, sugar free only candy at this party.

All the provided food had labels to educate the kids on nutritional facts in the food they eat everyday.

Jennifer Burn's 7-year-old son Jackson was just diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in June. The John's Island mother says she's still getting used to having a child with Diabetes.

"It's just so scary. Sometimes I just lay there and can't sleep thinking about all the 'what ifs?'" said Burns. "The best thing that happened was when we went to the dentist a couple weeks ago. Our doctor told us about a buy-back program with the candy, so Jackson decided he was gonna' eat healthy foods and give his candy to get money so he can probably buy video games," she said with a laugh.

All the prizes for the party were donated by WonderWorks.

"I have been responsible for supervising all the way from it's inception, and I've watched so many clinic patients come since they were toddlers, and now they're in there teens," said Director of "MUSC Gives Back" Student Volunteer Program, Liz Sheridan.

"I think the students get a lot out of it too. They can be a kid again. They all come right out of their midterm testing sequences and this is a real pick-me-up to get them to the end of the semester," she said.

MD Deborah Bowlby said one in 400 kids have Type 1 Diabetes and a party like this, focused on the fun of Halloween, can help get rid of any negative associations kids may have with the holiday.

"Other than not being able to eat [certain foods], kids with Diabetes are just like any other kid," she said.