A MassArt Grad Is Trying to Brighten Kids’ Hospital Stays

Ariana Chariton, a fashion design graduate from MassArt, had a unique idea to help children who had been hospitalized.

hospital gown

Photo by Meilin Barral

There’s nothing more dreary than a hospital, from the walls to the chairs, and even to what the patients wear.  Everyone’s familiar with the indignity of a drafty, drab hospital gown, and for kids who are in the hospital more than at home, the gowns only add to the alienating nature of a hospital stay. That’s where Ariana Chariton comes in.

Chariton, a fashion design graduate from MassArt, designs children’s hospital gowns—custom-making the patterns and hand-dyeing them for kids in the hospital. In early June she started donating the gowns to her tiny recipients. Given all the difficulty child patients face at hospitals, you may wonder why she chose to focus on gowns specifically. But her reason is nothing specific—she cares about making children happier during their times of waiting rooms, medical procedures, and hospital jello.

“I just really love kids and I felt like I needed to find a way to be more invested in my work,” Chariton says. “I felt the best way to do that was to contribute to some sort of a cause, which works for me. When I’m emotionally attached, my work comes out better.”

Her creative gowns took off. Chariton works on a donation basis with individual patients. Unfortunately, due to contractual obligations with gown manufacturers, she is unable to donate through the hospital, so interested parties have to contact her. She provides the gowns free of charge thanks to a grant from an organization called This Star Won’t Go Out, a non-profit that eases the financial burden of child cancer treatment.

No stone is left unturned—she even makes sure her hand-dyed fabric is color-psychology based, and is conscious of how the colors she chooses might affect the emotional state of the wearers. It’s all part of her vision to bring color to an otherwise bleak place.

And her gesture is boosting the morale of children around the hospital. “I’m kind of scared about the surgery, but it’s cool that I’m going to have a hospital gown that’s more creative,” says kid patient Ethan Delaney, who will undergo surgery this month.

And it isn’t just the kids—the parents welcome the distraction. “He’s been through so much medically. Every little thing that can make him more comfortable during his procedures or brighten his day is so appreciated,” says Ethan’s mom, Christina Delaney.

Chariton got the idea in college. MassArt is nestled on Huntington Avenue, directly across from the Longwood medical area. Hospitals dot the area, to the degree that ambulances and med flights are practically white noise for students. For Chariton, living in the med capital of the country sparked some inspiration.

“I was right by all the hospitals, so I started to think they’re so bleak. There’s all this white and gray that you see. Imagine the little kids that have to be in there. I wanted a little pop of color to give them a sense of brightness,” she says.