Firefighters and patients bond over games at children’s hospital

Firefighters and patients bond over games at children’s hospital
Madison makes the winning move against Jessica Carley in Candy Land. (Photo by Teri West)

“Mommy, I won!” 6-year-old Madison said as soon as she beat her opponent in Chutes and Ladders.

It was her first time ever playing the game, and she had quietly made her way up to the top of the board with the support of her opponent, Jessica Carley, the daughter of a New York City firefighter.

The two met at an event in the lobby of the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park Tuesday where firefighters joined young patients for an afternoon of games.

The firefighters were part of the New York City Engine 84 and Ladder 34 initiative called The Lil’ Bravest, which engages the company with children in the community, particularly those in hospitals. It honors the memories of two of the company’s firefighters who died in 2010. 

“Kids always look up to firefighters, so we feel it’s something that we’re able to do, and we’re able to come and lend a helping hand to them when they need it,” said the fire company’s chief, Jim Coakley.

Madison was diagnosed with sickle cell disease six months ago and has been coming to the children’s hospital since then.

Her mother, Kwana Lewis, has been impressed by the community they found at the hospital, where Madison comes rather than splitting her time between individual specialists.

The hospital holds weekly events for the patients such as bingo games or visits from magicians, said the hospital’s special events coordinator, Danielle Young.

“It just takes them away from their hospital room down into a new fun environment,” she said.

Though Madison quietly navigated the event, Lewis knew she would be telling all of her friends about it.

“It may not seem like a big deal, but to them it is,” Lewis, said. “I know she’s going to be talking about this for days.”

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