FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge normalcy, it has forced hospitals to make radical adjustments to keep their patients safe.
Before the coronavirus, young patients at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, R.I., looked forward to frequent visitors. Now, in an effort to keep them safe, access to guests has been restricted. Only one parent is permitted to be with the patient. However, one nightly ritual that has remained a constant to provide young patients with hope before bedtime is the ‘Good Night Lights’ program.
“Good Night Lights is a community tradition at this point, where people shine lights towards Hasbro Children’s Hospital every night at 8:30 p.m. to wish the patients, families and care givers good night and to represent hope to them, along with the support that comes with the display,” said Steve Brosnihan, the founder of Good Night Lights.
Good Night Lights first started in 2015 and as the world grapples with the struggles of the coronavirus, the importance of this tradition has grown.
“My own services to the hospital are on hold right now because I can’t be there drawing with the kids,” said Brosnihan, who describes himself as a “professional distractor” as a hospital cartoonist. “Most of the art and creative types that bring some of the stress relief elements through their art and performance are not in the hospital right now.
“We can’t go in for the kids to look forward to us, but they know that something is happening at 8:30 p.m. every night. It’s become one of the few programs that have not been seriously effected by the COVID-19 situation.”
The primary reason that Good Night Lights continues to inspire hope within children is because those participating can do so safely.
“I have been encouraging people to respect all CDC and local presets about social distancing and safety,” said Brosnihan. “People can use in-vehicle signals. You can drive to a designated spot, stay in your car and use your headlights or flash your flashlight through your windshield and keep yourself safe by doing it.”
Brosnihan mentioned that there has been overwhelming support from the local community to ensure that the Good Night Lights display remains as a hopeful constant for these children.
“Last Wednesday I saw an incredibly strong presence by the East Providence Police Department,” said Brosnihan. “On the Providence River away from the hospital, it was this amazing array of flashing lights.
“There have been a lot of people showing up in a new area to signal from a parking lot across the street. They’re serving a big chunk of the hospital, including the Behavioral Health Unit, which is almost always full with kids that are dealing with very serious medical psychological problems. Those kids are getting a stronger, more consistent display than they’ve ever seen at this time.”
While those in the hospital see their windows light up every night, there is an element of belief that comes along when someone is flashing the lights.
“It is an act of faith to go and flash your lights at the hospital,” said Brosnihan. “You can’t expect anyone to flash back. It’s likely to happen, and it’s wonderful when it does because you feel very satisfied to have made at least one connection with a kid up there.
“Yet, I’ve seen situations where a patient or a family - a mom with a baby, maybe - could not find a way to signal back, and yet was in tears as she appreciated what was going on out there for her and her child. There’s a chance that you’re signaling to someone that’s getting a lot of out what you’re doing for them, but they can’t do anything for you because of the situation they’re in.”
Good Night Lights makes a lasting impression on the children and families who participate in the tradition, even after they leave Hasbro.
“We have a young cancer patient, a young boy, who recently came home to his own personal community,” said Brosnihan as he recalled an occurrence from mid-March as the COVID-19 pandemic was becoming more serious in the United States. “His town organized a massive Good Night Lights display that happened right in front of his house on the street when he got home.
“Suddenly, there were fire trucks, police cars, and all kinds of people on the street creating this light display to let him know that he’s still being supported.”
Good Night Lights not only becomes an anchor for children struggling with health compromises, but it also becomes a part of everyday life for the fearless nurses, doctors and medical staff of Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
“We know that there’s some heavy stuff going on in the hospital, heavier than ever at this time,” said Brosnihan. “[By flashing lights] those nurses, those doctors in there, they know that you’re supporting them, too.”
For those who have been inspired by the Good Night Lights program, you can learn more HERE.
You can join the community by inspiring hope among the young patients and healthcare workers at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, R.I., by driving there to flash your lights every night at 8:30 p.m.