After 20 years of making medical facilities more available and improving residential services for medically frail children on Long Island, Angela’s House continues to make a difference.
Angela’s House started out as the only outlet on Long Island to help simplify home care options for medically frail children, by coordinating the extensive array of services and providing financial help to families when insurance companies declined to cover equipment and medical support.
Angela’s House recently celebrated their 20th Anniversary and throughout the years has transformed and expanded its services to provide homes, locally on Long Island for children to go. The foundation has two homes, one in East Moriches and the other in Smithtown, that are the first of their kind. They provide 24 hour nursing care and the necessary equipment to treat medically frail children, in a welcoming and home-like environment. By eliminating the need for children to be taken to facilities hours away, Angela’s House is giving families the precious gift of more time with their child. Founders, Bob and his wife Angie Policastro, are currently working on the opening of a third home in Stony Brook. The new home will be able to bring eight medically frail children closer to home and will have the ability to care for ventilator depend children. The Policastros are also looking to open a Respite Home, where children can come for short stay visits.
The Policastro’s became dedicated to improving the lives of medically frail children and their families after they suffered the loss of their daughter Angela, who had severe brain damage at birth, leaving her medically frail and requiring around the clock nursing care. “The situation was made worse because there was no help for her and there was no local place to help care for her,” said Bob Policastro, who went to visit his daughter two hours away in Connecticut. The realization that there were no facilities and services on Long Island to help their daughter Angela and other medically frail children like her was the inspiration behind Angela’s House.
The challenges he faced with his daughter wasn’t Bob’s first encounter with the absence of resources for medically frail children. In 1974 Bob attended his first year at Holy Trinity High School whose football field was named for John Jay Kutner, commonly referred to as Jay. “As a 14 year old we never talked about why the football field took on this name. We just learned about it in small talk, afraid and sad to what had happened,” said Bob.
Jay Kutner was injured on that same field one year prior and his accident left him dependent on a ventilator. The Kutner family was forced to place their son in a facility in New York City because Long Island had no place to continue Jay's care. He passed in 1974 and the school decided to name the field after him in his memory. “The field being named for Jay always had a strong spiritual presence on the school, staff and all the student body,” continued Bob. “All the outdoor activities had Jay looking over us.”
Jay’s brother Chris, who will be the Honoree at Angela’s House 10th Annual Golf Outing this year on June 11th, had class with Bob and they attended school together for the next four years. Going their separate ways after high school, the two friends were reunited at their 25th high school reunion. “We talked a lot and I shared with Chris what happened to my daughter Angela,” said Bob. “I shared with him how there was no local place to help care for her.”
Bob began to share with Chris how he and his wife started Angela’s House. “Without hesitation, Chris offered to help some of our families when insurance companies denied children in the community from getting necessary medical support so families could safely care for their children at home,” said Bob.
The Policastros were due to open their second home in 2005 and they wanted it to be for children who, like Jay, were dependent on ventilators. The Policatros were having trouble getting the approval to allow these children to live in the home. “It was at this point I spoke to Chris to strategize how we could make this happen,” said Bob. “It was a very sad situation where ventilator children were still forced to live far from home because Long Island did not have an alternative.”
After several years The Policastros were finally successful in getting the approval from the New York State Office of Persons with Development Disabilities to let ventilator dependent children live in the second Angela’s House facility.
It has been 38 years since the passing of Jay Kutner, but his influence lives on and inspires Bob and the Angela’s House foundation to bring medically frail children closer to home. The permit for the third Angela’s House home is still pending but when it is opened there will be a ceremony to honor Jay and his family.