HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Halloween came early this year for the patients at Joseph M. Sanzari's Children's Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Donning funky hats, the New York Giants rookies paid the patients a virtual visit given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our long-standing partnership with Hackensack Meridian Health is very special and our annual Rookie Halloween Party is one of the highlights of our community outreach,” said Allison Stangeby, vice president of community and corporate relations, New York Football Giants.

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This past week, the New York Giants rookie classes donned their Halloween best to virtually surprise patients and treat them with New York Giants memorabilia. Players worked closely with the medical center to re-imagine this year’s visit due to the importance of mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed us to explore new and creative ways in which our patients can continue to enjoy the traditional events that occur every year, and technology has been the way to re-imagine how we can bring joy to them,” said Amy Glazer, executive director of development, Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and Tackle Kids Cancer.

Patients and Giants players were set up with accounts on Caribu, a family video-calling app that integrates children’s books and activities, for an engaging experience between children and family members. The app bridges the miles to connect participants for reading, learning, and drawing experiences in real time. The hospital’s use of the app comes at a time when positive COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the state of New Jersey.

“We are honored to partner with Hackensack Meridian Health to celebrate Halloween with the patients at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital,” said Max Tuchman, co-founder and CEO, Caribu. “The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we communicate and celebrate with one another, and kids especially, are longing for normalcy and connection. While the hospital’s Halloween celebration might look different this year, we are glad Caribu is helping maintain their longstanding tradition with the New York Giants, and hope it encourages patients to stay connected in a more fun, engaging, and educational way during this very difficult time.”