Hospitable Halloween

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo James Rooney, 4, waves a state police sticker Tuesday at Plains Regional Medical Center. The sticker came in a treat bag from community members.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Community members surprised children in Plains Regional Medical Center’s pediatric ward Tuesday with Halloween treat bags.

Suzanna Cantu, who coordinated the activity with Big Valley Auto and New Mexico State Police employees, said she was inspired to deliver the treats from personal experience. Her son, Ruben Cantu, was hospitalized two years ago for a staph infection in his knee and a church group brought him a teddy bear.

“It made his day, and it touches you to see kids that happy,” Suzanna Cantu said. “So we kind of adopted it and now we do this.”

The treat bags were filled with candy, bubbles, pencils, card games and New Mexico State Police plastic badges and stickers. The small group of gift-bringers gave treat bags to 10 children and sang them a trick-or-treat song. The remaining bags were left with the staff of the wing to give to any children who checked in later in the week.

Hospitalized for pneumonia, 4-year-old James Rooney’s eyes lit up when he found a plastic police badge in his treat bag.

“I want to be a police,” he said.

Julie Rooney, James’ mother, was glad that the bag would give James something to do.

“He won’t be able to trick-or-treat this year, but at least he gets something,” the mom said.

Cantu was accompanied by co-worker Shannon Chavez and several children.

Officer Ron Chavez, Shannon’s husband, represented the New Mexico State Police, which donated stickers and plastic badges for the bags.

“We just wanted to let the kids in the hospital know, ‘You might not be able to come to our house for Halloween, but we’ll come to you,’” Cantu said.