By Naeisha Rose
More than 500 people throughout New York came out to support the 13th annual “Big Hearts Walk for St. Mary’s Kids” Sunday morning at Crocheron Park in Bayside.
The walk-a-thon, reached its $100,000 goal on Thursday, according to a St. Mary’s spokesman.
The proceeds from the charity will support vital programs and services at St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children, the only provider of pediatric long-term and rehabilitative care in the region, according to CEO Edwin Simpser.
“We take care of some of New York’s sickest kids,” Simpser said. “We take of kids who have been in the hospital but are not yet perfect when they come out of the hospital. We are there to help the kids and their families out.”
The Bayside branch of the hospital is located at 29-01 216th St., and has beds for 103 kids.
“We teach the parents how to take care of them and then we take them home,” Simpser said. “We also have a homecare agency that serves over 1,200 kids throughout the New York Metropolitan area providing nursing services and rehab services in the kids’ homes.”
St. Mary’s also has case management services for parents to help find any additional resources they may need.
One of the beneficiaries of St. Mary’s was Merritt Riley, a Massapequa resident whose 16-year-old son Aiden has cerebral palsy.
Aiden, who served as one of the grand marshals, kicked off the walk-a-thon and had his wheelchair transformed into a police car.
“We’ve had one-on-one care from St. Mary’s with home equipment,” Riley said. “The nurses have been there to help us with all of his needs since he was an infant.”
Aiden has received speech therapy to improve his verbal communication, he is on a special diet to help maintain his health and his cognitive function has improved, according to Riley.
Queens Village nurse Arianna Lyseight was one of the staff members who volunteered at the event.
Despite Sunday being her day off, Lyseight was excited to give back to her former pediatric patients, even though she switched to the homecare division of St. Mary’s.
“I’ve been with the hospital three years, and I’ve been with the program for two,” Lyseight said. “I love these kids. This is not a job, they’re family.”
Lyseight’s friend Monique Huggins, a co-worker from Brooklyn, took time off of from her lunch break to be there.
“If I didn’t have to go back to work later, I would have brought my daughter, too,” Huggins said.
Although Huggins did not get a chance to take part in Sunday’s event, Lyseight participated in the one-mile walk. There was also a half-mile route to accommodate children and those who have trouble with mobility, and a two-mile walk.
Three MTA bus operators of the Q44 bus line — Vinny Stone and Freddie Marrero from the Bronx, and Andy Algarin from Jackson Heights — also participated in the walk and were all happy to give back.
“It was for a good cause,” Algarin said.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose