St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children raised more than $110,000 at its 14th annual Big Hearts Walk for St. Mary’s Kids fundraiser on May 19 at Crocheron Park in Bayside to support the critically ill and injured kids at the hospital.
More than 300 participants — including patients who are learning to walk through the Locomotor Therapy Program at St. Mary’s — gathered at Crocheron Park to participate in the Big Hearts Walk for St. Mary’s Kids.
“There’s nothing better than spending the morning outdoors with our community, celebrating our children and ensuring we can continue providing them with the best possible care,” said Dr. Edwin Simpser, president and CEO of St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children. “The funds raised at today’s event will ensure we can continue our efforts to provide high-quality care to New York’s sickest kids. We’re so grateful to the entire St. Mary’s community for their support of the Big Hearts Walk.”
For the first time, patients in St. Mary’s Hospital’s innovative Locomotor Therapy program led the Big Hearts Walk. The children, who had previously been paralyzed due to illness or injury, used the skills they’ve developed in a therapeutic setting to take some of their first steps and inspire the participants.
The Big Hearts Walk included multiple walking routes, in addition to a “virtual walk” option for those unable to participate in person. Entrants to the walk were greeted by an NYPD steel drum band, and members of the NYPD Mounted Unit led the participants through the route.
Following the walk, volunteers facilitated a Family Fun Day featuring face painting, a photo booth, cotton candy, costumed superheroes and more activities for children and adults.
The top team fundraisers this year were “Melissa Rob & Friends,” “Luke’s Warriors,” “Maureen Folan Real Estate Group,” “Team Pastoressa” and “CEA Fitness.”
Top individual fundraisers this year were Robert Heicklen, Catherine Pastoressa, Patricia Magas, Colette Saccomanno and M. Riley.
Pastoressa, whose team surpassed their goal of $3,500 raising a total of $5,090, was honored at the Big Hearts Walk for St. Mary’s Kids. She was named community leader for the hospital last year, and has spent a lot of time both volunteering at the hospital and working with the foundation, Pastoressa said on her fundraising page.
“During my time at St. Mary’s, I have been blessed to have made tons of tiny little friends there that completely amaze me,” Pastoressa wrote. “They are some of the bravest kids with the most incredible hearts I have ever seen. They have taught me so much and have truly changed my life for the better. I have also been fortunate enough to work with some of the kindest hearted, selfless and caring people I have ever met.”
Pastorella added, “Since my first day volunteering at St. Mary’s I knew I wanted to try and do as much as I could to help raise both funds and awareness for the place that houses so many of my new little friends. St. Mary’s is a very special place to me, and I feel extremely lucky to be able to be apart of such a wonderful organization that helps so many families throughout the Tri State area.”
(Photos by Jennifer Kunz)