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Bob Policastro

From left, Diana and Attilio Alati with Bob Policastro of Angela's House. Photo from KINEXION

Medford-based Angela’s House, a 501c3 non-profit organization that assists families caring for children that are medically fragile, chronically ill or living with a life threatening illness, has announced it has received a $33,000 gift from the Andrew Alati Foundation. Andrew was a 13-year-old boy from Long Island who was struck and killed in Levittown, while riding home on his bike in 2019. 

The gift was given on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the founding of Angela’s House, which is part of the Kinexion network. 

“Andrew lived his life caring for others. Through the Andrew Alati Foundation we can continue his legacy of kindness and compassion for other people,” said Diana Alati, Andrew’s mother. “We are so proud that his name and spirit continues to live on. We are honored to help other families through his foundation, and we are thankful to all our donors and for their ongoing support.”

“We are grateful to the Alati family for this unprecedented generosity,” said Bob Policastro, Executive Director of Angela’s House. “Our families have had to deal with unique and trying circumstances that affect their children in ways they could never anticipate. This gift will go a long way toward helping them with the resources they need most.”

The gift will be used to fund the “Everyday Wishes” program which provides families with medical supplies, therapeutic equipment, assistive technology, home modifications, respite, counseling, advocacy, service coordination, crisis assistance, alternative medicine, special camps and other resources for their medically fragile children that cannot be funded by other means. In 2021, Angela’s House granted 757 Everyday Wishes and to date, has assisted nearly 300 chronically ill children and families. 

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Bob Policastro smiles with Ella, a young girl with a respiratory issue. Photo by Kevin Redding

For 25 years, Hauppauge resident Bob Policastro has made it his mission to give medically fragile children and their families a place to turn to — not just for specialized nursing care but love and normalcy.

As founder and executive director of Angela’s House, a nonprofit organization that offers an extensive array of services for families to support children with severe medical conditions, the 57-year-old has worked tirelessly since 1992 to address the gap in New York’s health care system when it comes to helping chronically ill kids.

He said he was determined to be a voice for these parents and kids in the community after experiencing firsthand just how underhelped they are.

A view of one of the kid’s bedrooms. Photo by Kevin Redding.

When his daughter, Angela, was born in August 1989, Policastro said everything went wrong.

“She lost a lot of blood and oxygen, and suffered severe brain damage, that left her very frail,” he said.

As there had been no permanent place on Long Island equipped to handle the technological and medical needs of frail children, Policastro and his wife, Angie, had a tough time finding a specialized home or facility to provide their daughter the nursing care she desperately needed.

They ended up finding a specialty hospital two and a half hours away in Connecticut, but the long drive just to see his daughter left an emotional and physical scar on Policastro.

After Angela died a little after her first birthday, a grief stricken Policastro got to work.

Now there are three large group homes that look and feel more like cozy resorts to choose from, with Angela’s House locations in East Moriches, Smithtown and Stony Brook.

Each location contains 24-hour nursing, local therapists and doctors on hand, and houses up to eight kids between the ages 6 and 16 with varying conditions. The residences offer top-of-the-line medical and monitoring equipment hidden within the warmth and beauty of a caring home.

And although the children that inhabit it are those who have suffered accidents, disease, developmental delays and more, Angela’s House helps provide them the freedom and opportunity to have a simple childhood.

During a walkthrough of the large Stony Brook house, which opened in 2013 and is dedicated to kids who rely on ventilators, Policastro pointed out one of the children’s bedrooms.

It looked like a kid’s paradise, with a bed covered in stuffed animals, the floor littered with toys, Nickelodeon on TV and a window that gives a beautiful view of the property’s nearby woods — a far cry from the hospitals and institutions in which many of the children at the house had been living.

Bob Policastro smiles with Torren who suffers from a respiratory issue. Photo by Kevin Redding.

“For me, it’s about the kids and giving them a safe and loving life,” he said. “I feel really blessed that these kids who have been given a limited lease on life can make the most of it in ways the average person could never dream possible, or can touch people in ways that change them forever. It’s remarkable to see a nonverbal kid, [many of house’s children can’t talk], that has a smile that can light up a room. It’s a great responsibility and I feel honored to be put in a position where I can try to help as much as I can.”

Deborah Church, nurse manager at the Stony Brook location who does everything for the kids from providing medical stability to planning birthday parties to giving them a hug when they need it, said Angela’s House is the best place for these children to be if they can’t be home.

“It’s nice to have the parents smile and know they can go out and have a life, and come and visit their children and see they’re so happy, safe and well taken care,” Church said. “This is a happy home for them to live. These kids can be as normal as possible and always have a smile on their face.”

Gathered around a kitchen table, Policastro and Church talked with 15-year-old Torren, who had been confined to a hospital and nursing home for the first 12 years of her life because of a respiratory illness, about her Sweet 16 next month. Torren will wear an extravagant dress, dance to her favorite band, OneRepublic, and eat nachos with her friends at the house.

Torren, who wheels her ventilator around inside a travel suitcase in order to feel less self-conscious about her condition, said her favorite parts about living in the house are the staff and outings — which include trips to the bank and local stores, as well as pumpkin patches in the fall.

Stephanie Caroleo has been working at Angela’s House for six years.

“The most rewarding aspect is when you come to work and you truly feel like you make a difference every day,” she said. “Every day we make a difference in the lives of these kids, and you see it in their face, in how they speak with you and the relationships we develop.”

When asked what’s kept him motivated for the last 25 years, Policastro pointed to Ella, a little girl in a wheelchair smiling from ear to ear. “That,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what mood you’re in, if you bump into one of these kids and you see that smile, oh man, that’s golden.”

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

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.