For children who need all the help in the world, they built Angela’s house
Gina DiMartino was born with a rare genetic condition that causes tumors.
At just 5 months old, she underwent surgery which resulted in the loss of an eye.
Now a 2020 graduate of Bellport High School, DiMartino is still struggling, regularly visiting Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for checkups and treatment.
Alongside Gina and her family for two decades, Angela’s House, a Long Island nonprofit, has helped this spirited young woman live a happy life.
GreaterPatchogue spoke to Gina last week at Angela’s House Hospitality Store at 2052 Rt. 112 in Medford, where we found her donating a childhood toy box along with one of her mother’s jewelry boxes.
“Angela’s House helped me get a new (glass) eye early on, which made me feel more comfortable, as well as Assure to help me survive,” she said. declared. “And when I was a baby, I needed a bed to keep me elevated, a hospital bed. They helped me with that too.”
What would life have been without the intervention of Angela’s House?
“Not good at all,” she said. “They saved me and my family.”
Parenthood is difficult.
Parenting a child with a rare disease or dependent on a medical machine to live and breathe is unthinkable.
Angela’s House, was created 30 years ago to help these families, after seeing the shortcomings of the system as experienced by Founder and Executive Director Bob Policastro and his wife, Angie.
They realized they were just one of hundreds of families trying to navigate a system with no clear path for them.
During their journey with their daughter, Angela, it became very clear that the system needed to change and the Policastros have been advocating for medically fragile children ever since. (Click here to read their story.)
Today, the association helps more than 600 children across Long Island who live at home with their families.
For children whose care is too involved, or for other reasons, Angela’s House operates three homes in Suffolk County, providing round-the-clock care for 23 children and young adults who would otherwise have been forced into travel to facilities throughout the region of the state. .
Angela’s House has reunited families whose children were in out-of-state care and improved the quality of life for more than 15,000 children and families since its inception 30 years ago.
State waivers and health insurance help cover some costs associated with caring for medically fragile children, but there are limits to what insurance will cover. There are huge coverage gaps that these children and their parents face, Policastro explained.
Never mind the financial strains of suddenly having to become a single-earner family after having a child born medically fragile – or after an accident.
And the steadily rising cost of living on Long Island.
Angela’s House has been working to fill these gaps for three decades. This is what led the organization to create the Everyday Wishes program, which is funded by the New Home store.
For these families, an Everyday Wish is more like an adapted stroller. Or an electronic hospital bed for the home. Or cover the cost of a hotel room for a parent during their child’s long stay in a Philadelphia hospital.
Angela’s House also hosts family events each year.
These have been affected by COVID, but Policastro hopes that 2022 will see us coming together again – and seeing these special children again in person.
“It’s just to give them the fulfilling life they deserve,” he said. “We also use the funding for family, parents and, most importantly, siblings who sacrifice so much – beyond losing much of their parents’ attention.”
Funds for the Everyday Wishes program are raised through fundraising events, individual contributions, corporate partnerships, beneficiary events and in part by Angela’s House Home Store.
This social enterprise was started with the hope of providing an unlimited source of income to meet the needs of children as they arrive, on an ongoing basis, in the future. It is a way to secure the legacy of Angela’s House and diversify funding sources.
When you shop at Angela’s House Home Store, Gina explains, you are “helping people because Angela’s House can help children and families in need. Children like me.
The house store
The 20,000 square foot Angela’s House home store is like a combination of Home Depot, HomeGoods, and a medical supply store, but with a mix of used and new items.
Items range from hardware, refrigerators, kitchen and bathroom tiles, sofas, cribs, knick knacks and cabinets.
The home store opened just before COVID-19 hit, in October 2019, and Angela’s House managed to overcome closures and restrictions. Donations also continued to arrive.
“I didn’t have to scramble too much,” said Tom Beccaris, director of donations. “We wrote letters, made cold calls, but once the word got out it snowballed. And I have connections, having been an entrepreneur for 25 years.
Among the donors is a kitchen remodeling company that is donating its showroom cabinets.
“It’s basically brand new,” Beccaris said.
The inventory at The Angela’s House Home Store changes daily, so it’s best to visit often. And many items sold at 70% off retail price.
[Interested in donating home improvement and/or household items? Contact Tom at [email protected] to begin the process. Include photos with your email to skip a step.]
But there are other ways the Angela’s House Home Store helps, and for this initiative, its impact is the community as a whole, not just the children of Angela’s House. Everything at Angela’s House Home Store is for sale, except medical equipment and supplies.
These are all free.
The medical field is clearly what Policastro is most proud of.
During a recent visit to the home store, Policastro’s eyes lit up as he pointed to all the free medical devices for children and adults in need, all of which were donated to Angela’s House.
“These items cost a few thousand dollars each; it’s something very, very, very valuable,” he said. “A wheelchair like this could cost as much as a car, like $10,000, $12,000. It’s very sophisticated. People tell us, why don’t you sell it? But it was never about that.
“And a place like this never existed.”
Donations of equipment or medical supplies can be directed to Vinny at [email protected].
Top photo: Jessica Lindberg, a nurse case manager, took Gina DiMartino, a lifelong care recipient from Angela’s House, to donate some items to the Home Store, which opened in October 2019.