By Rebecca Henely
Hundreds of St. Mary’s staff, patients and their families enjoyed a stroll around Fort Totten and other fun activities Sunday for the hospital’s eighth annual fund-raiser walk.
“We’re having a great time,” said Robin Rivera, an office manager at St. Mary’s. “The weather’s great. A lot of people showed up.”
St. Mary’s Hospital for Children, at 29-01 216th St. in Bayside, is a not-for-profit healthcare system that specializes in helping young patients with chronic conditions that require long-term care. The Knights of Columbus hosts the walk in different locations every year to raise funds, and this year the walk was 2 1/2 miles, for those in wheelchairs, around Fort Totten Park in Bay Terrace.
“I like being by the water, so I think this is nice,” Rivera said about this year’s location.
Many participants in the walk did so as part of a team, usually for a child who resides at the hospital. Those teams that raised the most money had their child named a grand marshal.
One of those marshals was Matthew Evangelista, a 10-year-old Bayside boy who has Sly Syndrome. The bodies of children with this rare illness are missing an enzyme that breaks up long used sugar molecules called mucopolysaccharides, which build connective tissues. When the molecules are not broken down, the child’s body becomes progressively more damaged.
Matthew’s father, Eduardo Evangelista, said it was wonderful to have his son be grand marshal. He said the walk raises awareness of the diseases Matthew and the other children have and could encourage others to help.
“The people around at St. Mary’s — they really care about all the children who are really very sick,” Evangelista said.
Another grand marshal at the event was 3-year-old Lily Davies, whose family is from Oceanside, L.I. Lily has a disorder called lissencephaly, which prevents the grooves in the brain from forming and causes severe neurological problems.
Lily’s mother, Kathleen Davies, said the family has been eager to give back to the hospital.
“They take such good care of her,” Davies said.
After the walk, participants were treated to water and iced canned coffee. Games as well as arts and crafts projects were also set up for the children. Some sponsors also had booths, such as the FDNY, which hosted fire safety information.
Thomas Amalfitano, a member of the Knights of Columbus, said his organization spent four months working to organize and host the walk. He said the organization was eager to help the St. Mary’s Patients.
“We love our children and we take care of them,” he said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.