SALT LAKE CITY — Two celebrities donned capes and masks and surprised patients at Primary Children's Hospital July 17 in honor of Superhero Day.
Brother and sister Julianne and Derek Hough, Utah natives known for their performances as professional dancers on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," spent Thursday morning lifting spirits in Salt Lake City.
The Hough siblings were en route to their live tour and agreed to visit Primary Children's Hospital even after a traffic accident delayed them and their crew.
"The Houghs are kind of family friends of Steve Young, and so the Forever Young Foundation coordinated to bring them here and have them perform," said Sandra Orton, the hospital's communications specialist.
During the event, held in the hospital's music-therapy area, the siblings performed a salsa dance, answered questions, signed autographs and talked with the children.
"We had about 70 to 80 patients and parents," Orton said. "We actually had one girl who got rolled in on her bed. We had quite a few in wheelchairs, and of course we had kids pushing their IV poles."
Orton said parents and patients were grateful the Houghs attended and provided a change of pace.
"I had one mother tell me that her child was kind of in a grumpy mood that morning and was really tired and didn't necessarily want to do much. But when she found out that Julianne was coming, who is one of her favorite performers, she was really excited to get out of the hospital room," Orton said.
"Her mom said she could see a change in mood and so she felt like it really helped her at least get through one more day at the hospital."
It is because of these experiences, Orton explained, that the hospital organizes events such as Superhero Day.
"Being in the hospital, I think for anyone, is extremely difficult, especially since they're young children," Orton said. "They're dealing with very tough things, whether it's heart problems or cancer or unexpected accidents. So I think these kind of events, these small things that we can do, provide an opportunity for them to get their minds off of the medical stuff."
Julianne and Derek Hough provided such a distraction for each child in attendance.
"They went out into the crowd and they met with every single patient in that room," Orton said. "They were cute with the children, and you could tell they really enjoyed being there. It was really fun to see them interact with the kids and how sweet they were with them."
In conjunction with the superhero theme, staff members hung a poster in the playroom that read, "Spider-Man's real identity revealed," which featured the picture of a young patient.
"Derek noticed the connection," Orton said, "and walked up to the kid and said, 'Hey, can I shake your hand? It's really cool that I now know who Spider-Man is.'"
Orton said the event was a success because it provided patients and family members a much-needed break.
"I think for the parents it's just great for them to come in, sit down for a few minutes, take a break from the hospital room, take a break from testing and procedures and medication, and to watch their children be able to be kids and smile and be able to enjoy moments," Orton said.
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