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A Royal Visitor

In the throne room of the Sanford Children’s Hospital, two little girls wearing hospital gowns were waiting to meet a “real princess.”

As Miss America Teresa Scanlan reached down to give each girl a hug, their little faces shined with excitement.

For the girls, it only made sense to encounter the friendly woman in a silver tiara in this enchanted place, the Castle of Care. Scanlan, a Nebraska native who was crowned Miss America in January, said she was thrilled to be able to add to the care for a few little girls and boys.

A place of miracles

“I travel to hospitals around the country, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” says Scanlan, who travels around the country as an official goodwill ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. “There is something incredible about having a castle, a magical, colorful place like this, where miracles can happen.”

Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls is part of the Children’s Miracle Network, an organization of more than 170 hospitals that raise funds and awareness for children’s medical care across North America. Sanford Children’s Hospital joined CMN in 1986, making it the exclusive CMN Hospital in eastern South Dakota, southwest Minnesota northwest Iowa and northern Nebraska. The organization raises funds to help with children’s care, keeping 100 percent of the dollars here in the region.

Bringing the crowns

Scanlan, on her first ever visit to South Dakota, chose to dress appropriately for her tour of the castle. While she and Anna Simpson, Miss South Dakota 2011, would normally wear more casual clothes to visit a hospital, both broke out their formal gowns and of course, the crowns, for this visit, she said.

“It’s so much fun to see the kids’ faces,” Scanlan said, wearing a blue flounced gown and shiny tiara as she signed photos for the girls. “Anything we can do to raise their spirits and raise awareness of children’s hospitals is needed. These hospitals save lives.”

Her appearance was an honor to the hospital, says Amy Sumner, program director for CMN at Sanford. The Miss America Organization has made the CMN part of its official national platform since 2007, raising more than $5 million for CMN hospitals across the nation.

“We saw lots of bright faces as Anna and Theresa entered the patients’ rooms,” Sumner said. “It was an opportunity to brighten the day for so many children.”

Supporting miracles

The support and attention that Scanlan brings to Sanford’s Children’s Hospital and the CMN is important to help serve children throughout the region, Sumner said. The funds that are raised provide care and support for many families, she said.

In a playroom just feet away from where she met the “real princess,” six-year-old Kiana King decorated a paper crown with glitter paint.

“I liked her crown,” said the blonde little girl from Volga, SD with a shy smile.

Kiana had been at the hospital for three days to treat an infection and walked over to see Scanlan pushing her IV pole. Her grin spread from ear to ear as Miss America learned down to talk with her. Afterward, she said that having her picture taken with Scanlan on the castle “balcony” was the highlight of her stay.

The current Miss America said she appreciated the way that the hospital was designed to keep children in mind, both with child-specific medical equipment and a sense of fun. She loved opening the tiny “treasure boxes” hidden in spots throughout the castle’s hallway walls. “So often for children, there aren’t places in the hospital that are fun, where they can explore,” Scanlan said.

Scanlan, who grew up in Gering, Neb., in a family with seven children, says she is often touched by the stories she hears when meeting with young patients and their parents in CMN hospitals. Over the past few months she has seen how the hospitals give those families good medical care, and something more.

“You have to have hope,” Scanlan said. “This kind of hospital is a place of hope.”

Posted Date: October 2011