Young patients had their Harry Potter fanaticism nursed for a change at Georgetown University Hospital's Lombardi Cancer Center here in Washington today.
The children gathered in the clinic dripping with Potter-themed decorations. Some wheeled IVs and spoke from behind face masks guarding their weak immune systems -- features that faded when donning thick Harry glasses and Quidditch player capes.
"This party is for children undergoing chemotherapy and other difficult treatments who are missing out on some of the joys of childhood. It's to deliver some fun during what can be a bleak time," said Laurie Strongin, talking with a volunteer.
Strongin's son's passing at the age of seven after a life-long struggle with a genetic disease motivated her and her husband to start a foundation in his memory called Hope for Henry. They shower young patients with the finest tools of distraction -- personal DVD and mp3 players, Ninetendo Game Boys, digital cameras and other consumer electronics.
Pediatrician Brooke Trenton watched some of her patients bounce around eating cake and waving plastic wands at 10 a.m.
"Kids need a break from what they're going through," Trenton said.
She added the three hour party was already making for an easier morning for everyone in the oncology hematology clinic.
Outside of the hospital, some worry about the swell of darker themes embodied in the very title of J.K. Rowling's final installment, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Strongin said the sinister undertones speak to children fighting potentially fatal illnesses.
"They understand things that healthy kids don't. Threats and danger lurking goes along with their life experience," said Strongin.
"Harry Potter is a symbol. Harry went through so much adversity," added Strongin. "With determination and courage, and lots of help from friends, he pulls through."
The foundation is a result of bonds forged through Henry's illness. An aunt in Minneapolis, Minn., lined up with the Strongin family to buy copies at midnight for another release party at a hospital where Henry once received a bone marrow transplant.
At four hospitals nationwide, 275 copies of "Deathly Hallows" were bought for patients who may have been to sick to line up at bookstores.
Subhan Jamil, 19, came down from his hospital room for a free copy of "Deathly Hallows." He's spent about a year here after spending one semester at college.
"I never thought I would say this, but I miss school," said Jamil.
He used to major in accounting, but now he wants to work with children, or maybe be a journalist.
When talking about the Sony PSP he received from the Hope for Henry Foundation, he said, "My time passes faster. It's pretty boring usually."
Maybe less so on a day with gummy rats and a few black witches' hats.