The Inn Transforms Into a Winter Wonderland

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and at no place is that more the case than The Children’s Inn at NIH. Last week, volunteers could be found in every corner of The Inn stringing garlands, hanging ornaments, and bringing holiday spirit to the families and staff.

Holly Parker, a trustee and founding board member of The Children’s Inn, always loves seeing the decorations transform The Inn. “December has always been a really special time here,” she said. “The activities that go on to support the families make this time special even though they are not at home.”

As a trustee, Parker was one of the few volunteers able to help decorate The Inn for the holiday season over the last two years due to COVID-19 protocols. Recently retired from her job as a recreation therapist in pediatrics at the NIH Clinical Center, Parker was thrilled to have volunteers back on site.

“When I walked in this morning and saw all these people here to help, it was just really nice to see the place coming back alive,” she explained. “We decorated the tree in an hour-and-a-half instead of it taking all morning!”

For those volunteers who had not been able to return to The Inn over the past two years, the return was special. Erika Killian, a Division Director at Leidos and a member of Women for The Inn (WINN) since the organization’s founding three years ago, was very happy to be back.

“We first volunteered at The Children’s Inn around 2012,” Killian remembered. “The first time we came, we built beds and fell in love with The Inn. But this is my favorite time of year. The lights and the decorations just bring so much joy. It’s a blessing for us to be able to help.”

On Thursday, families and staff of The Inn mingled with volunteers and board members at the Winter Wonderland Celebration, officially kicking off the holiday season. Rayne, a three-year old bundle of energy from the Bahamas, led the official countdown to what Parker referred to as the “grand illumination,” then led a dance party to holiday music provided by internationally-known singer-songwriter Shelby Blondell.

“She’s been very excited for Christmas this year,” said Rayne’s mother Agnes. “She’s starting to understand what it’s all about, and is so excited to take part in the tree lighting ceremony.”

There are more holiday celebrations to come. The programming team has a calendar of holiday events throughout December. On December 7, the Montgomery County Police Department will escort the big man himself, Santa Claus, back to The Inn to greet families as part of the annual Santa Ride. Anyone in the area can meet Santa and drop off gifts for families staying at The Inn at any of the stops along Santa’s route.