Westbury and Carle Place have a special meaning for Bob Policastro. But not because it’s where he grew up, or went to school or spent vacations as a kid. Rather, the area has a special meaning for him because of his daughter Angela, who suffered severe brain damage during birth leaving her medically frail. Carle Place was home base for him and his family for six months when Angela was being taken care of at North Shore Hospital, and Holy Rood Cemetery is where she was eventually buried shortly after her first birthday.
Through caring for their daughter and her tragic loss, the Policastros were made aware of a larger problem.
“Since her birth, we realized that there was little support to take care of a child who had medical needs,” said Policastro. “I started seeing kids living at the hospital, seeing a world that I and most people had no idea existed. It made a bad situation worse because there was nowhere to turn. The people who were there were very generous people, but really couldn’t help.”
Policastro set out on a mission. At first it was just to get services for his daughter, but then he set out to help as many medically fragile children as he possibly could.
“I couldn’t stop. I just continued,” Policastro said.
Policastro pushed forward with advocacy and educational efforts to promote knowledge and understanding of medically frail children and their needs. Those efforts culminated in 1992, with the birth of Angela’s House, a nonprofit aimed at helping medically frail children and their families. Every year, the organization helps more than 600 children in both Nassau and Suffolk counties through its three homes, as well as its home care services. The children range in need—suffering from accidents, disease, developmental delays and more. Though they are medically fragile, Angela’s House helps them have a higher quality of life and chance at a childhood.
Angela’s House helps coordinate necessary services, such as counseling and non-Medicaid service coordination, to support medically frail children at their home. Since 2000, the nonprofit has also built three medically-equipped homes for children who can no longer live at home. These homes—located in East Moriches, Smithtown and Stony Brook—provide professional 24/7 care for children in an age-appropriate environment. The homes have rooms to accommodate medical necessities such as suctioning and oxygen, and provide a comfortable living space for the child.
“We’ve been able to give them a beautiful over-the-top home environment,” Policastro said. “It’s great to see the kids in the house, and to know the peace of mind we’re giving the parents who knew they couldn’t handle the medical technology.”
The organization also holds numerous events, such as a recent fishing trip and visit to White Post Farms, where children can engage in fun activities with the support of additional medical staff.
When Franklin Manchester, general manager of the Holiday Inn Westbury, learned more about Angela’s House, he said it was a life-changing experience. The hotel throws an annual fundraiser every year and on Sept. 16, it will throw an extravagant Hawaiian luau to benefit Angela’s House and the work they do to support medically frail children and their families.
“Angela’s House is a littler under the radar,” Manchester said, noting it’s not as well-known as some other charities on the island. “It’s painful to hear about, but when I dove in there and learned more about it, even though it’s painful, it’s enriching and enlightening to know you can assist these people.”
The fundraiser is bound to be an unforgettable event. The hotel’s courtyard and pool will be transformed to a Hawaiian luau, complete with live entertainment, music and more. Attendees can enjoy food, tropical-themed drinks and enter for a chance to win raffle prizes, which include tickets to sporting events, restaurant vouchers, hotel stays and more.
The hotel hopes to raise $10,000 for the charity and Manchester said he has been blown away by the support shown by donors and the community.
“The Hawaiian luau is a great theme, but that has been somewhat secondary in reaching out to people,” Manchester said. “When we have been able to connect with people, and really let them know what Angela’s House is all about, the response to our call for support has been extraordinary.”
All proceeds from the event will go toward Angela’s House. Tickets to the event are still available and the Holiday Inn Westbury is still seeking donations for raffle prizes. Tickets for the event are $50. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit www.hiwestburyhotel.com. Find out more about Angela’s House at www.angelashouse.org.