A longtime volunteer of St. Mary's Hospital for Children in Queens raises money to buy a swing that accommodates children in wheelchairs.
Kea is the Uno queen, and there is also the domino king. Matthew likes Blue’s Clues and another young boy loves to rap and rhyme: “Lottie dottie don’t know nobody.”
Volunteer Lottie Lomangino with
a child at St. Mary’s
Hospital for Children
These are just some of the characteristics volunteer Lottie Lomangino knows about the patients of St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside, Queens, who all have varying degrees of special needs.
Lomangino, who has volunteered with the hospital’s recreation area for the last six years after retiring from a career in banking, ensures the children have fun and a sense of ‘normal’ despite their medically complex conditions from illness, injury, or complications from premature birth.
Now, thanks to Lomangino and her fundraising efforts—which have earned $26,000—the hospital’s current playground includes a swing for children in wheelchairs. And once the hospital’s new accessible playground opens this summer, Lomangino hopes to raise additional funds for a second swing.
“When I was a youngster, swinging was the greatest feeling in the world,” Lomangino says. “You’re high up in the sky, you see the world from a different perspective. Everybody should have the ability to get on a swing and soar through the air. Why shouldn’t these children feel the same thing?”
The special swing that Lomangino worked tirelessly to fund
Though not all the children at the hospital are bound to their wheelchairs, Lomangino noticed that the ones who were, because of feeding or medical tubes, could not enjoy the existing playground equipment. Lomangino held a bake sale, hosted a spaghetti dinner, and reached out to people for donations.
Each week, Lomangino dedicates six to eight hours of her time and also participates in the hospital’s special events and fundraising walks. Though she does not have any biological children, she considers all of the kids at St. Mary’s her own.
“How could you not love these children? They give you back so much. Just a smile touches your heart,” Lomangino says. “I’ve met some of the parents.… I always tell them it’s my privilege to be a part of their children’s lives.”
St. Mary’s Hospital for Children this year began a volunteer-based Patient Navigation Program to help families of medically fragile children navigate the complex landscape of the healthcare system in New York. Volunteers who may be active or retired health professionals, including nurses, social workers who have experience in this field, and parents of medically fragile children, are needed.
“These families really need an entourage of people to help them learn how to take care of not only the children’s medical needs, but everything else that goes along with it,” says Nancy Speller, the manager of the newly developed program who is also a registered nurse. Speller had a medical intensive care unit in her house to care for her child for 16 years. “I could never leave my son with any of my family members or any of my friends, and that was a huge challenge.”
Though the concept of patient navigation is not new (Speller first came across it in oncology while she was working with the American Cancer Society), Speller says she has not yet seen this model used to benefit a population of medically fragile children.
To learn more about volunteering with the Patient Navigation Program, contact Nancy Speller at 718-281-3985 or email her at [email protected] To learn more about general volunteer opportunities at St. Mary’s, visit stmaryskids.org.