Gina DiMartino was born with a rare genetic disorder that causes tumors.
At just 5 months old, she underwent surgery that resulted in the loss of an eye.
Now a 2020 Bellport High School graduate, DiMartino is still battling, routinely taking trips to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for checkups and treatments.
Alongside Gina and her family for two decades has been Angela’s House — a Long Island nonprofit that’s helped this spirited young lady live a happy life.
GreaterPatchogue spoke to Gina last week at the Angela’s House Home Store at 2052 Rt. 112 in Medford, where we found her donating a childhood toy chest along with one of her mother’s jewelry boxes.
“Angela’s House helped me early to get a new (glass) eye, which made me feel more comfortable, as well as Ensure to help me survive,” she said. “And as a baby I needed a bed to keep me elevated, a hospital bed. They helped me with that, too.”
What would Gina’s life have been like without the intervention of Angela’s House?
“Not good at all,” she said. “They saved me and my family.”
Parenting is hard.
Being a parent to a child with a rare disease, or who’s dependent on a medical machine to live and breathe is unthinkable.
Angela’s House, set out 30 years ago to help these families, as a result of seeing gaps in the system as experienced first-hand by Founder & Executive Director Bob Policastro and his wife, Angie.
They realized that they were just one of hundreds of families trying to navigate a system with no clear path for them.
Through their journey with their daughter, Angela, it became very apparent that the system had to change and the Policastros have advocated for medically fragile children ever since.
Today, the nonprofit assists over 600 children across Long Island who live at home with their families.
For those children whose care is too involved, or for other reasons, Angela’s House operates three homes in Suffolk County, providing around-the-clock care to 23 children and young adults who otherwise would have been forced to facilities throughout the tr-state area.
Angela’s House has reunited families whose children were in out-of-state placements and improved the quality of life for over 15,000 children and families since it was founded 30 years ago.
State waivers and health insurances help defray some costs associated with caring for medically fragile children, but there are limits to what insurance will cover. There are huge coverage gaps these children and their parents face, Policastro explained.
Nevermind the financial constraints of suddenly having to become a one-income family after having a child born medically frail — or after an accident.
And the ever increasing cost of living on Long Island.
Angela’s House has been working to fill these gaps for three decades. It’s what led the organization to create the Everyday Wishes Program.
For these families, an Everyday Wish looks more like an adaptive stroller. Or an electronic hospital bed for the home. Or covering the cost of a hotel room for a parent during their child’s long stay at a hospital in Philadelphia.
Angela’s House also hosts family events each year.
These have been affected by COVID, but Policastro is hopeful that 2022 will bring about the ability to gather again — and get back to seeing these special children in person.
“It’s just to give them the fulfilling life they deserve to have,” he said. “We also use the funding for the family, the parents and very importantly, the siblings who sacrifice so much — beyond just losing a lot of their parents’ attention.”
Funds for the Everyday Wishes Program are raised by fundraiser events, individual contributions, corporate partnerships, beneficiary events and in part by the Angela’s House Home Store.
This social enterprise was started with the hopes of providing an unrestricted source of income to address the children’s needs as they come in, on a rolling basis, well into the future. It is a way to secure the legacy of Angela’s House and diversify funding streams.
Heard enough? Mention Greater Long Island or GreaterPatchogue at the register between now and June 5, 2022, and receive 10% off your entire purchase. No other discounts apply. This comes courtesy of Angela’s House. Scroll down to read all about the Home Store.
The Home Store
The 20,000-square-foot Angela’s House Home Store is like a combination of Home Depot, HomeGoods, and a medical supplies store, but with a mix of used and new items.
The items range from hardware, to refrigerators, to kitchen and bathroom tiles, to couches, cribs, curios and cabinets.
The home store opened just before COVID-19 struck, in October 2019, and Angela’s House managed to muscle through the shutdowns and restrictions. The donations kept coming, too.
“I didn’t have to scramble too much,” said Tom Beccaris, Director of Donations. “We wrote some letters, made some cold-calls, but once the word gets out, it just snowballs. And I have contacts, having been a contractor for 25 years.”
Among the donors is a kitchen remodeling company that donates 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 being sold at 70 percent off retail price.
[Interested in donating home improvement and/or household items? Contact Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org to begin the process. Include photos with your email to skip a step.]
But there are more ways that the Angela’s House Home Store helps, and for this initiative its impact is the greater community, not just the Angela’s House children. Everything at Angela’s House Home Store is for sale, except the medical equipment and supplies.
Those are all free of charge.
The medical area is clearly what Policastro is most proud of.
On a recent tour of the home store, Policastro’s eyes lit up while pointing to all the free medical devices for kids and adults in need, all of which have been donated to Angela’s House.
“These items are a few thousands of dollars a piece; it’s very, very, very valuable stuff,” he said “A wheelchair like this could be as much as a car, like $10,000, $12,000. It’s very sophisticated. People tell us, why don’t you just sell it? But it was never about that.
“And a place like this has never existed.”
Donations of medical equipment or supplies can be directed to Vinny at email@example.com.
Top photo: Jessica Lindberg, a nurse case manager, took Gina DiMartino, a lifelong Angela’s House care recipient, to donate some items to the Home Store, which opened in October 2019.
To learn more about Angela’s House, their special kids and upcoming fundraiser events, please follow them on facebook or Instagram.
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Mention Greater Long Island or GreaterPatchogue at the register between now and June 5, 2022, and receive 10% off your entire purchase. No other discounts apply. This comes courtesy of Angela’s House.