10-year-old patient to lead St. Mary’s walk at Ft. Totten

10-year-old patient to lead St. Mary’s walk at Ft. Totten
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Phil Corso

St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children has chosen one of its own to serve as the first grand marshal of the group’s eighth annual Walk for St. Mary’s Kids next month.

Matthew Evangelista, 10, will lead the pack in the group’s annual walk celebrating St. Mary’s 140th year of serving the state’s most vulnerable children.

“We’re thrilled to name 10-year-old Matthew as our first grand marshal of this year’s Walk for St. Mary’s Kids in recognition of all of his rehabilitative achievements,” said Jeffrey Frerichs, president and chief executive officer of St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children. “We look forward to Matthew leading the way as we walk to raise funds and awareness for children with special needs and celebrate the 4,000 children in our care.”

Evangelista was diagnosed with paralyzing Sly Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, at 5 months old. After undergoing spinal surgery to correct his paralysis, he was transferred to St. Mary’s Hospital for Children, at 29-01 216th St. in Bayside, where he receives specialized care, therapies, support and education.

Though he struggles with chronic respiratory failure, developmental delays, asthma and limited motor function, Evangelista has continued to excel while receiving treatment at St. Mary’s. According to the hospital, he learned to sign and is able to communicate with friends and staff members with ease. He also said he loves visiting the on-site public school, PS 23.

One in five children has a special health care need like that of Evangelista’s, the hospital said. To show their support, corporate, family, community and individual groups will join together to walk alongside the grand marshal in honor of the children the hospital serves.

This year’s event is more significant, the hospital said, as it celebrates 140 years of care for children and families with special needs. The walk is scheduled for May 20 at Fort Totten Park. Those looking to register can visit the hospital’s website at events.stmaryskids.org/walk2012.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573