Spider-Man visit lifts spirits at Hoffman Estates hospital

  • Gianna Greco, 17, of Streamwood is all smiles as she gets a visit from Spider-Man in her hospital room Sunday at Amita Health Women & Children's Hospital in Hoffman Estates. Spider-Man is Ray Wisbrock of Palatine. He volunteers as a superhero for the Holiday Heroes program at area hospitals.

      Gianna Greco, 17, of Streamwood is all smiles as she gets a visit from Spider-Man in her hospital room Sunday at Amita Health Women & Children's Hospital in Hoffman Estates. Spider-Man is Ray Wisbrock of Palatine. He volunteers as a superhero for the Holiday Heroes program at area hospitals. Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

  • Sabrina Hernandez, 6 months, of Brookfield gets an up close visit with Spider-Man on Sunday at Amita Health Women & Children's Hospital in Hoffman Estates. Spider-Man is Ray Wisbrock of Palatine.

      Sabrina Hernandez, 6 months, of Brookfield gets an up close visit with Spider-Man on Sunday at Amita Health Women & Children's Hospital in Hoffman Estates. Spider-Man is Ray Wisbrock of Palatine. Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

  • Danica Arenas, 11 of Hanover Park, talks with Spider-Man at Amita Health Women & Children's Hospital in Hoffman Estates on Sunday. Spider-Man is Ray Wisbrock of Palatine, who volunteers to visit kids in hospitals through the Holiday Heroes program.

      Danica Arenas, 11 of Hanover Park, talks with Spider-Man at Amita Health Women & Children's Hospital in Hoffman Estates on Sunday. Spider-Man is Ray Wisbrock of Palatine, who volunteers to visit kids in hospitals through the Holiday Heroes program. Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 4/28/2019 6:45 PM

In her bed Sunday at Amita Health Women & Children's Hospital in Hoffman Estates, 17-year-old Gianna Greco clutched a small stuffed dog, as her parents, Angelo and Michelle Greco of Streamwood, sat nearby.

Little did she realize that Spider-Man was about to step into her room.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Actually, it was Ray Wisbrock underneath the Spider-Man suit. The Palatine resident stopped by in costume Sunday to help lift spirits and mark National Superhero Day at the hospital.

A smile spread across Greco's face as she was presented with a Craft Crate containing a cape, mask and materials to decorate a superhero outfit for herself. She also received a Captain America flying disc and, best of all, a $50 Amazon gift card. At mention of the last gift, her mouth opened in disbelief as she said, "What?"

She later said she was definitely surprised and described the experience as "awesome."

Asked if she had a favorite superhero, she smiled and said, "Actually, it is Batman."

Spider-Man hung his head and then whispered to her, "Between you and me, he's way cooler than me. I'm just a bug. Batman's a billionaire."

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Holiday Heroes coordinated with Child Life Services at the Hoffman Estates facility to bring in Spider-Man, who visited individual rooms as well the playroom, where children staying at the hospital decorated capes and took pictures with the superhero.

The Holiday Heroes program, in its 10th year and funded by corporate and individual donors, involves 15 hospital partners. Its aim is to bring some normalcy to children who are critically, chronically and terminally ill, said Maggie Drain, Holiday Heroes development and program coordinator.

"These kids are going through so much," she said. "So a superhero gives them a little bit of power and push to get through whatever it is that they are going through right now."

"Kids love it," Wisbrock added. "It just breaks up the monotony of their day. It just makes them feel like someone else is there with them."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The program also brought to light the work of Child Life Services. Katie Hammerberg, Amita coordinator of Child Life Services, said the program works to prepare the children for a hospital stay.

"We try to reduce the stress and anxiety that a hospital visit can bring," she said. "And so we do a lot of that through play."

Dr. Vipul Singla, a pediatric hospitalist, said Child Life Services makes his job easier. Being hospitalized can be challenging for a child, not only because they are away from home, but because they are sleeping in a strange bed and attached to an oxygen monitor or an IV, he said.

Child Life Services makes the experience more comfortable.

"When kids start to feel better, that's usually a good sign that they're doing better on the inside, which sometimes blood tests don't confirm and X-rays don't show yet," he said.

For more information about Holiday Heroes, including its June 13 fundraiser at Theater on the Lake in Chicago, visit holiday-heroes.org.

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