Thanks to the Marisa Tufaro Foundation, patients and families at PSE&G Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick were treated to a wonderful, Jersey Shore boardwalk-themed celebration in July. The evening included carnival games, live music, prizes, arts and crafts, a DJ, and summer food favorites in honor of Marisa Tufaro’s 16th birthday. The event was held with support from the recreation therapy and child life staff and volunteers at Children’s Specialized Hospital.
Born with a complex cardiac defect, Marisa Tufaro survived six open-heart surgeries and multiple life-threatening complexities prior to undergoing a heart transplant. The transplant, intended to extend Marisa’s life, tragically cut it short after a post-operative complication developed into a rare form of cancer. After radiation and chemotherapy treatments failed to thwart the relentless onslaught of an aggressive disease that riddled her brain and body, Marisa succumbed to her illness in January 2017 following a valiant battle. She was 13 years old.
Marisa had great memories of visiting the boardwalk and the Tufaros work hard to bring that experience to the kids at Children’s Specialized Hospital. With the help of community partners including The Food Architects of Piscataway, Bovella’s Pastry Shoppe of Westfield, Dairy Queen of Clark, WOW! Entertainment of Somerset and more than two dozen volunteers, the Marisa Tufaro Foundation, whose mission is to help children in need throughout the greater Middlesex County area, crafted an event to remember. The Rutgers University football program, Jenkinson’s Aquarium, the Somerset Patriots and Six Flags Great Adventure all also donated wonderful prizes for a free raffle drawing during the event.
“This is the second year we are hosting this event commemorating Marisa’s birthday,” said Cyndi Tufaro, Marisa’s mom and Marisa Tufaro Foundation Trustee. “Marisa loved visiting the boardwalk and it’s so meaningful for us to be able to recreate it for the patients at Children’s Specialized Hospital. I love seeing the smiles on their faces!”
"It is heart-warming to see so many volunteers take time from their busy lives to give our patients and families such a wonderful, fun experience,” said Alexis D’Anton, Community Engagement Manager, at Children’s Specialized Hospital. “We are so grateful for our partnership with the Marisa Tufaro Foundation, they gave our kids an amazing night they'll never forget."
The Marisa Tufaro Foundation was founded by Greg Tufaro, a scholastic sports writer for the Home News Tribune, and his wife, Cyndi, an Edison Township elementary school principal, following the passing of their daughter, Marisa, on January 30, 2017.
Children’s Specialized Hospital, a nonprofit organization, is leading the way into a brighter future for children and adolescents facing special health challenges – from chronic illnesses ad complex physical disabilities like brain and spinal cord injuries, to developmental and behavioral issues like autism and mental health. Children’s Specialized Hospital Foundation supports the programs and services of the hospital and all donations go directly to helping us pioneer new specialized care and serve more children in need. To help, or for more information: visit www.childrens-specialized.org; find us on Facebook – www.facebook.com/chidrensspecialized, or follow us on Twitter @ChildrensSpecNJ.