BENSALEM, Pa. (WPVI) -- Halloween festivities may look different this year due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, for families battling childhood cancer, that's not unique to the pandemic.
That's why the Pasquarella family has donated nearly 1,000 costumes to patients at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia this year.
"They use them because they're scared to take their medicine, scared about going to surgery," said Pete Pasquarella, who fervently organizes the costume drive with his wife, Kelly.
"Just dressing up keeps them busy for a day," he said.
He knows the experiences of these families first-hand. In 2011, his 5-year-old daughter, Sophia, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
"Man, she was a fighter," Pete said. "It never bothered her. There was always a smile on her face."
Halloween was Sophia's favorite holiday. She was intending on dressing as a nerdy schoolgirl on October 31, 2014. Instead, that was the day she lost her battle with childhood cancer.
"I probably didn't even have her funeral yet, and I said every year, I just want to give Halloween costumes to the Children's Hospital," Pete said.
Now, on its sixth and biggest year, the Phightin with Sophia team donated 957 costumes.
"They gave me something that would actually cheer me up in the hospital," said Freddy Curley, who is battling leukemia. "And I still kind of wear it to this day."
His mom, Beth, said it made all the difference to an 8-year-old learning to live with a dangerous diagnosis.
"Freddy was not really allowed to leave his room because of his immune system," she said. But then, she heard donations had poured in from the Pasquarella family.
"It was like going to a Halloween store," she said. Freddy would dress as a ninja for Halloween that year.
Pete and his wife, Kelly, are already beginning to accept donations for next year's holiday. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, they require all costumes to be unused and remain in their store-bought packaging when donated. Additionally, the couple has seen success with their Amazon wishlist and Venmo account, @Kelly-Pasq.
Kelly says this time of year is particularly popular for purchasing costumes at a discount.
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