The Halloween festivity was held in the hospital’s parking lot, and activities included “trunk or treat,” pumpkin painting, games, a corn maze, raffles, a game truck and food. The FDNY handed out coloring books and fire safety information; the NYPD marching band entertained visitors with its tunes; and the mascots of the New York Islanders, the New York Mets and the FDNY posed for photo-ops of the event revelers, many dressed in Halloween costumes.
It was the first annual fall event after COVID-19, and Jennifer Kunz, director of communications at St. Mary’s, shared it was more of a Halloween-themed event this year.
“We wanted to make it more community-driven and more fun for families,” Kunz shared. “So far, we’ve raised over $25,000, which is really exciting for us, thanks to our local community sponsors and fundraising efforts.”
“Star Wars” fans had a chance to mingle with the dark side of the force, represented by the Empire City Garrison, and the light side of the force, represented by the New York Saber Guild, in the “trunk or treat” section.
Michelle Montanez shared that pre-COVID, the Saber Guild, a Lucas Film-recognized fan group, would visit young patients in the hospital and perform for them.
“We’re just really happy to be back again,” Montanez said. “They got back in touch with us for this.”
A representative from Alley Pond Environmental Center introduced a bunny, a dragon lizard and a ball python to the visitors.
“I love interacting with everyone,” she said. “My favorite part is when people say they’ve never pet a snake before, when they’re scared of it. And I’m like, ‘Here, let me show you how to pet a snake.’ And they pet the snake. It makes my day.”
Nine-year-old James Pastis shared that he loves reptiles and had a chance to pet the snake.
“I love snakes,” James said, describing the snake’s skin as soft. “Definitely not what I expected.”
Thomas Schiavo, head football coach at Valley Stream Central High School, brought his football team to the event.
“I think that it’s good for the boys to give back to their community and grow a sense of appreciation for what they’re blessed with in their body,” Schiavo said.
His players repeated the sentiment. Jerome Nembhard shared that his coach wanted them to see how blessed the players are and “give some sort of hope to these children.”
Donovan Sisco said the players wanted to show respect to the kids in the hospital.
“You walk around every day, not knowing the wonders of what goes on in this beautiful, beautiful hospital,” Sisco said. “And what they do with these children to help them live and survive every single day.”
All proceeds of the event go to the services and programs at St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children, which provides high-quality care for children with complex and chronic medical issues.
Tykihah Young, whose 7-year-old daughter Maddie has been a patient at St. Mary’s since the end of September, could attest to the excellent care the hospital provides. They came all the way from Mobile, Alabama, for treatment.
Maddie has a spinal cord injury she sustained in a motor vehicle accident caused by a drunk driver. Tykihah Young shared that doctors in Alabama had told her that nothing could be done to improve Maddie’s situation.
“You know, in the South, the doctors are saying ‘This is it,’ you know,” Young said. “They did not care. No one really cared.”
Young learned about the program through internet research; she loves the program and the progress Maddie has made.
“I love it up here. It is the best,” Young said. “When everybody said no, [St. Mary’s] says yes!”