By Victoria Espinoza

More than 700 people walked a day in someone else’s shoes this past weekend.

Angela’s House, a Hauppauge-based nonprofit organization that offers support for families and children living with severe medical conditions, hosted its second annual Walk a Day in Our Shoes 3K Walk fundraiser at the Holtsville Ecology Center Sept. 18.

$45,000 was raised to help bring awareness to the organization’s cause. Limited options exist for families with children born and diagnosed as being medically frail, chronically ill or suffering from any type of life-threatening conditions when or if they leave the hospital.

Bob Policastro, founder and executive director of Angela’s House, said he was unaware of the limited options parents have until his daughter, Angela, suffered severe brain damage during birth, which left her very medically frail and in need of nursing care.

“The process is incredibly painful,” Policastro said in a phone interview. “You’re in this situation no one wants to be in, and you need to figure out how you’ll be there as a parent for your child.”

Participants from the Walk a Day in Our Shoes event Sunday, Sept. 18, smile as they start their trek. Photo from Angela’s House
Participants from the Walk a Day in Our Shoes event Sunday, Sept. 18, smile as they start their trek. Photo from Angela’s House

Policastro said he and his wife, Angie, had a hard time finding a specialized home or facility near where they lived in Hauppauge and eventually settled on a specialty hospital in Connecticut. The lack of services locally put additional emotional and physical strain on the parents because they were forced to travel more than two hours to spend time with their daughter in Connecticut. Angela eventually succumbed to her illnesses and died shortly after her first birthday.

The Policastros created the nonprofit in 1992 and since then have opened three homes in East Moriches, Smithtown and Stony Brook where children with serious medical conditions live and are cared for 24 hours a day.

The funds raised from the event will help continue the care in these three homes, as well as programs to help other families learn about the resources available for them and their loved ones who are struggling with life-threatening medical issues.

One mother wrote about her experience with Angela’s House. Her son Johnny required a tracheotomy and a feeding tube around five years old. She said as his condition worsened, she was no longer able to take care of him at home, and that’s when she found Angela’s House.

“Bob and his wife Angie have been working tirelessly to have a home built for children [whose] medical needs were too great for families to care for their child at home but whose family is on Long Island,” she wrote. “Johnny spent nearly 16 years at Angela’s House and during that time he has received excellent medical care and a tremendous amount of LOVE. The wonderful nurses and aides tirelessly provided Johnny with kisses, hugs and jokes. Johnny rewarded them with the simplest of gestures … his smile.”

The day included face painting, a D.J., a zoo and lunch provided by Applebee’s.