Claire Baum clapped her hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. Then she peeked over her shoulder at Mom to see if she was laughing, too.
Miss USA Sarah Rose Summers, who knelt at the 8-year-old’s bedside, put on her best silly accent to read a silly book to Claire and her 11-year-old sister Grace.
Summers, a Papillion native, visited Claire and other patients at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center on Friday. She hosted storytime in one of the hospital playrooms and later helped with arts and crafts.
It all comes naturally to Summers, who was named Miss USA in May. Before the competition, she became a child life specialist. Child life specialists help patients and their families cope with the stress and uncertainty of being in the hospital. They introduce therapeutic play, preparation for procedures, and education to reduce fear, anxiety and pain.
Being back at a hospital and seeing the faces of kiddos light up is “what it’s all about,” Summers said.
While Claire wasn’t quite sure what the title of Miss USA meant, she did know that Summers, wearing a crown, looked like a princess. And the Papillion girl is a big fan of princesses.
She interrupted Summers’ reading to tell her how pretty she was. And as for that crown — “I so like it,” Claire said. At the end of the visit, Claire exchanged autographs with Summers.
Claire spent four days in the hospital following hip surgery. The hospital isn’t always the happiest place, her mom Laura Baum said. So it was nice to see Claire with a big smile.
Big sister Grace liked the visit, too. She learned that she’ll attend the same high school as Summers did. But she really liked how happy it made her sister.
Terry Patterson, director of family resources at the hospital, met Summers a few years ago when Summers was curious about a career as a child life specialist. He didn’t expect her to come back with a Miss USA title.
Having special visitors like Summers gives patients a nice surprise, he said.
“It’s excitement happening outside of the medical routine,” Patterson said.
The visit broke up the hospital monotony for Coraline Harding. The 7-year-old has been in and out of the Omaha hospital for a tumor, her dad Casey Harding said.
On Friday, the Turin, Iowa, girl was up in her wheelchair for a storytime with Summers.
“Having her smile that much is awesome,” her dad said.
Summers was hospitalized at Children’s for a brief time when she was a kid. She learned how important it was for kids to have a positive interaction during a hospital stay.
She isn’t poking or prepping patients for procedures, but she gets to introduce an element of play during visits to the hospital.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to take patients and families away from that pain for a day,” Summers said. “This is where my heart is.”