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Staten Island Christmas display lights the way for cancer research

Attracting more than 16,000 people each year, Joe’s Christmas spectacular has become a successful fundraiser.

Joe DiMartino is a kid at heart. Excited for the holiday season, he spends three months transforming his home on Sharrotts Road on Staten Island into the North Pole.

His home illuminates the block with its boldly colored lights, designs and animatronics. Attracting more than 16,000 people each year, Joe’s Christmas spectacular has become a successful fundraiser.

“The first year my wife and I did it very small, we just did the garage; then the next year was 9/11 and I didn’t do anything,” says Joe.

Keeping a promise to his late wife

Joe’s wife, Debra Ann, was killed on September 11, 2001 in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. She was a supporter of children’s charities, and in her honor he decided to help children in need through his holiday lights display. Joe raises awareness and funds to support the children’s cancer services at Staten Island University Hospital.

Thanks to the generosity of Joe’s visitors, nearly $300,000 has been raised over the last 16 years.

“I swore to my wife that I would keep this house lit up bigger and bigger every year in her memory,” Joe says. “Sick children need the help,” and his goal is to get the reach further out. In 2016, the DiMartino house went national when it aired on ABC TV’s hit show, The Great Christmas Light Fight, and in 2018, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting broadcast featured the DiMartino house.

Impacting children’s cancer care

“Funds will go to the Children’s Cancer Center and pediatric oncology research,” says Philip Roth, MD, chairman of Pediatrics and vice president of medical education at Staten Island University Hospital. “The research is critical to improving diagnosis and treatment of children with cancer.”

“Research funding is very hard to find and receive,” says Sarah Vaiselbuh, MD, director of Pediatric Oncology and HistioCare at Staten Island University Hospital. “The money is spent on something that is very fundamental, research for a cure, which benefits all children.

“No parent or patient is ever prepared for the anguish of a cancer diagnosis. The support received allows our patients to access lifesaving treatments close to home. We may not always have a reason for why children are diagnosed with cancer, but we are working on finding the answer,” says Dr. Vaiselbuh.

quotation mark I swore to my wife that I would keep this house lit up bigger and bigger every year in her memory.
Joe DiMartino

Currently, our researchers are looking at a marker to diagnosis leukemia at a very early stage, which will help to improve the quality of life for children with the disease. Although the DiMartino family didn’t win The Great Christmas Light Fight, their message of optimism touched the nation. In 2017, their efforts raised more than $36,000.

“We are incredibly appreciative of families like the DiMartinos,” says Dr. Roth. “It’s people like this that make a true difference and really impact communities. We are incredibly grateful to them and hope others will follow their example.”

 

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