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How Rady Children’s Celebrates the Holidays

2021 Light the Way Garden lights

The holidays can be tough for hospitalized kids. Rady Children’s goes above and beyond to make the season magical

Each year, hundreds of ill or injured children spend the holidays at Rady Children’s. The staff and volunteers at Rady Children’s and their community partners go above and beyond to make sure no one misses out on the holiday fun. The halls are decked, the gifts wrapped and special holiday happenings take place throughout the season.

One of the most recognizable is Rady Children’s Light the Way Campus Light Parade. On a certain day in December, San Diego lifeguards, firefighters and law enforcement officers show their support by leading a lights-and-siren vehicle parade around the hospital campus while patients shine flashlights from their hospital room windows in solidarity.

“The idea behind Light the Way is that if we can’t be inside with the kids or have the kids outside, they can still see that their community is there to support them through the holidays,” says Alexandra Loker, vice president of philanthropy at Rady Children’s. “No matter where kids are, they can see that the community is there trying to make the night special for them.”

The beloved Light the Way event has grown over the years and is now the culmination of Rady Children’s holiday season and associated fundraising campaign that funds all the special holiday events at the Hospital. To learn more about Light the Way and how you can help Rady Children’s make the holiday season special for patients and families, visit

“To be able to provide a toy over the holidays, make things festive and fun, decorations throughout the hospital, interactive light gardens and a tree in front of the hospital, those are all things that Light the Way participants and corporations are helping to make possible,” says Loker. “Philanthropy is really what makes it look like the holidays around here. Donating is a wonderful way to make magic happen here at the hospital for the kids.”

Light the Way funding also allows for appearances from special guests and tons of goodies and also helps parents make the holidays meaningful for hospitalized kids. Hospital staff set up a Holiday Book and Toy Store, where parents can pick out gifts for their child at no cost to them. The high-value toys and games are age-appropriate and purchased directly from an approved manufacturer to limit possible contamination and meet strict hospital safety standards, but that doesn’t make them any less fun. The pop-up shop also stocks a curated selection of books, representing all the holidays and in multiple languages that the parent can select for their child and write a special dedication inside. There’s also gifts to show parents they’re appreciated, too.

“They’re able to pick up goodies, like reusable coffee mugs, which are something that when you’re staying at the hospital are really nice to have,” Loker adds. “Those parents are going through so much and we want to remind them that they matter, and they’re doing a great job.”

To learn more or make a donation to Rady Children’s Toy and Diversionary Activity Fund, visit