Santa, Disney characters visit patients at Children's Hospital Central California

The Fresno BeeNovember 16, 2013 

From his hospital bed, Cash Shank high-fived Mickey Mouse as a slew of Disney characters passed through the halls of Children's Hospital Central California on Saturday afternoon.

Santa Claus accompanied the entourage, passing out small gifts and singing. Cash particularly liked Santa's cheerful voice.

"It was awesome," he said.

Five-year-old Cash has a brain tumor. Doctors told his family recently that he may only have a few weeks to live.

He wants to visit Disneyland, said his grandma, Charleen Bradford of Visalia.

On Saturday, thanks to costumed volunteers with Staged Events in Clovis, Disneyland came to him.

"It's really, really cool," Bradford said of the visit. Most of the time at the Madera County hospital, the children are stuck in their rooms, she added. Having visitors like Santa and Mickey Mouse "lifts the kids' spirits."

Most of the elaborate costumes were handmade for Staged Events, a new events and costume rental company in Clovis. A Pinocchio costume had a seemingly magical nose that grew and shrank, made possible via a button clenched in the teeth of its wearer, an orthodontist.

The costumed volunteers have a number of different day jobs. A firefighter, teacher, contractor and hair stylist were among the 16 people who participated in the character parade.

"We did it in hopes that as serious as the kids' lives have to be, that they remember that it's still fun to giggle and smile and just be silly and to have some fun," said Kathy Thornburg, owner of Staged Events.

Marveya Alcantar, 12, of Porterville followed the troupe through a hospital hallway, holding onto her walker. Tubes ran from her body to hanging IV bags that her mother steadied.

Although she moves slowly because of her illness, cancer has not robbed the brightness from her smile.

The costumed characters reminded her of Disneyland, Marveya said.

"It makes me feel happy because I got to see them again," she said.

From a doorway nearby, Judy Padilla of Fresno held her 3-year-old daughter Khloe, who has leukemia.

Padilla said she appreciated that the group was allowed to visit. It made the hospital feel like being among family, she said.

"It's bittersweet, it's really nice," Padilla said. "And she's (Khloe) going to be talking about it forever."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386, cgeorge@fresnobee.com or @CarmenGeorge on Twitter.

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