Print View - Return to Normal View

Holiday Cheer at the Children’s Hospital

By Delan Bruce

Published Dec 20, 2017 12:06 PM

Patients and their families enjoyed a play-filled day at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, with Barbie, Santa and the Laker Girls.


Teagan and Evan with Santa Claus. Photo by Michal Czerwonka.

Mattel Corporate Executive Chef Dylan Regan has been here many times before. In fact, this is the fifteenth year he has brought along his kitchen staff and their families — all volunteering for the day — to provide the dining options for UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital’s holiday party. This year’s celebration, on December 9, took place on the hospital’s fifth floor terrace under a huge white tent.

Regan and his team constructed a classy yet comforting holiday menu that put finer touches on some of the most familiar classics. The many offerings included 7-cheese mac and cheese, a deconstructed chicken pot pie and strawberry mint lemonade. Taking care to ensure that holiday party attendants — the child patients confined to the hospital during this festive season, along with their parents, siblings and other family members — are happy and well fed is more than just work to Regan.

Sixteen years ago he was on the other end of things. His newborn son Elijah was at Children’s Hospital of Orange County in what Regan calls “a life or death struggle” for months. He knows firsthand what the families he serves are going through and how it means “everything to allow each of them to feel a little bit of normalcy” rather than be consumed with the uncertain health situation of their child. Fortunately, Elijah survived the health scare and now accompanies his dad to help feed the partygoers every year.


Laiba with Santa. Photo by Michal Czerwonka.

For the kids, the party’s special attractions were Barbie, Santa and a handful of young Disney television stars. Two of the Laker Girls cheerleading squad brought cheer to the patients and families at several arts and crafts stations where volunteer hospital staff also helped children paint picture frames, decorate cookies, make bracelets and build their own holiday ornaments. There was also a deejay, a professional photo booth, holiday balloons and two Christmas trees complete with gift bags for all.

Tooraj Karlin, whose granddaughter was born in the hospital ICU on November 28, said, “We were very concerned, but now with all the care she’s receiving, she’s getting better. She’s out of intensive care; now she’s in a private room. We’re very happy.”

“We were just here to see the baby. They said, ‘There’s a party going on. Go join in.’ It’s very uplifting. These are families with children who are very sick. This helps lift up their spirits, especially during holiday time.”

Nancy Molenada manages the Mattel Children’s Foundation, the toymaker’s corporate philanthropy arm. Along with Executive Director Heather Lazarus, she was on hand to reflect on the culmination of her team’s hard work. Organizing for the event began in September.

“You have people working on it because they care and they want to be a part of it. It’s not just a job; they all feel ownership in this,” Molenda said.

Speaking about the party participants, she said, “It’s a good day for them to escape what they normally have to go through here. We actually are bringing the party to the hospital. It’s really all about the kids.”


Akei, Anicus and Ivy King. Photo courtesy of Kasey Jones, INK.