Child Life Program Inspires Grandma to Raise Money for a Starlight Fun Center

Denise DiCostanzo paced the hallways of Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in New York, overwhelmed by her granddaughter’s diagnosis. Twelve-year-old Amanda was battling E. coli Shiga toxin as well as hemolytic-uremic syndrome, or HUS, which is a condition that affects the blood and vessels. Amanda experienced severe pain, blood tests and transfusions for 16 consecutive days.  
“Although I think of myself as a very strong woman, I was so overcome with grief and the reality of what was happening to Amanda, I was unable to hide my tears and fears,” said Denise. 
The anxiety she felt led her to walk the halls, speak to every staff member and read every brochure. She got to know the dedicated doctors, nurses and child life specialists. During Amanda’s stay, the Arts Therapy Department, ran by child life specialists, supplied Amanda with arts and crafts, games and movies to help the time pass. The holidays were quickly approaching and Denise wanted to give back so she went online to see what the hospital had on their “wish list.”

The first item was a Starlight Fun Center.  

Starlight Fun Center

Starlight Fun Centers are mobile entertainment units powered by the Wii U from Nintendo that roll bedside – or almost anywhere – to provide physical therapy activities and distractive entertainment. Each Starlight Fun Center donation of $5,000 helps Starlight send a hospital-friendly unit with all the hardware, training, set-up and ongoing Starlight support over the 7-year lifetime of the Fun Center.  

“As much as the hospital needed the Starlight fun center, I needed to do this. It was my diversion from the horror I was witnessing. I never did anything like this before so it was a challenge and I was determined to succeed,” Denise said.

And she did!

Denise created a GoFundMe account and began asking family and friends to contribute. Not long after, Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital received a brand new Starlight Fun Center and Amanda made a 100 percent recovery! 

12-year-old Amanda

Start Your Own Fundraiser to Bring a Fun Center to Hospitalized Kids 

Now, Denise has a special place in her heart for child life specialists who helped her granddaughter recover.  
“I believe the work they do is another piece of the puzzle to heal the patients they attend to,” said Denise.  
Denise raised more than the amount needed to donate a Fun Center so she gave the remaining funds to the Child Life Creative Arts Therapy Department and her granddaughter was by her side to deliver the check.  

Would you like to make hospital experiences less scary for children by donating a Starlight Fun Center or raising money for another Starlight program? Create a campaign today and invite your family and friends! Click here: 

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Tara Millspaugh

Digital Media Manager

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