‘Angela’s House’ – Granting ‘Everyday Wishes’ For Nearly Thirty Years

Members of the Angela's House team pictured above; Founder and Executive Director Bob Policastro, top left. (photo courtesy of: Angela's House)

For the past three decades, the Policastros, of Hauppauge, have not just refused to accept defeat by the most devastating hand a family can be dealt; they have changed the game entirely.

Founded in 1992, “Angela’s House” was named in honor of Bob and Angie Policastro’s second child. Their daughter passed away a couple of years earlier, at a little over a year old, due to brain damage suffered at birth that rendered her medically frail, and in need of constant medical care. 

At the time, a lack of locally available homecare services called for Angela to receive round-the-clock assistance first at North Shore Hospital for six months, then finally at a hospital in Connecticut, which “made a heart-wrenching circumstance that much worse.” 

“There was a brief moment when she first passed, of hesitation,” Angela’s House Founder and Executive Director Bob Policastro recalled. “When you’re advocating for your daughter, and you’re starting to meet other parents, and then you’re meeting more families, and educating yourself on the plight of things – I asked myself, do I still belong, advocating for this?

Thankfully, for children with chronic illness, and the greater Long Island community, the hesitation didn’t last long. 

Today, Policastro is recognized as one of the focal voices of community service in the area. Yet, when noted for his infectious kindness and knack for rallying the compassionate population together to put their best feet forward even more so, he quickly defers credit right back to the recipients of his not-for-profit’s “everyday wishes.”

“The kids,” says Policastro, “these angels who keep on altering us – all the praise belongs to them. They provide us the resilience to carry on.”

Angela’s House also prioritizes what Policastro and his staff consider the “little big things.” This means giving severely limited children who cannot celebrate a birthday with friends the ability to complete a music lesson. To ride horseback. To attend camp. To collect all sorts of experiences many tend to take for granted.

Few organizations know the hardships brought upon by Covid-19 better than they do; the stresses felt throughout another Holiday season amidst a pandemic that has yet to subside, as well. But the fact remains: those who are struggling themselves may not realize that any donation can go a long way.

“If it has a plug on it, it’s great for the home,” Policastro urged. “The average person may not realize, with the cost of insurance, a child who needs a pulse oximeter, or a feeding pump, or anything, could benefit instantly.”

Angela’s House’s inaugural site opened up in East Moriches. Years of advocacy helped them secure a second location in Smithtown, on Brooksite Drive, and then another in Stony Brook which currently offers assistance to children who require additional ventilator support. 

This month, a truck was donated to further help with the organization’s Medford-located resale center and warehouse. Smithtown Historical Society sponsored their Smithtown home. And they have teamed up with Michels & Hanley Toy Drive, Momo’s Sports Bar of Holbrook, and “The Shark” radio station for a singular, food and clothing collection-based initiative: assembling gift bags for the whole family to enjoy; cookies, popcorn, hot chocolate and other delights to combat the bleakness of a cold winter where large gatherings are cautioned against once more.

Just before protocol adjustments in light of the rampant spread of the Omicron variant, Angela’s House was still able to host its annual candlelight vigil at Eisenhower Park. There, 370 participants turned out to surround the “Angel of Hope” statue. Held on the first Saturday every December, the standout speaker of the event, according to Policastro, was a local mother of two children lost to terminal illnesses.

“It’s amazing what parents know, that we all understand: grief is love – and love never ends.”

Proudly working with 600 affected children each year, Angela’s House also works with 600 families by design; and they would not have it any other way.

“When the families get to know us, we stay with them, even if their child has passed,” Policastro revealed.  “In our society, we don’t understand grief. Most people don’t want to talk about those who have been lost. But it’s important. It’s healing. If I touch a few people at a time, and it helps a few families, and they continue to post photos of their kids, and people respond gracefully – then it’s all been worth it.”

Fortunately, no children belonging to one of Angela’s House’s several homes over the past two years have lost their lives due to Covid-19. 

“It’s miraculous,” said Policastro. He admits the costs to support the children have obviously increased (because of Covid), but reaffirms their commitment to provide said kids the priceless opportunities most others are afforded, but do not appreciate as much as a chronically ill child would.

“They deserve to have the most fulfilling life – like any other child would have.” 

Interested in donating or becoming involved today? Visit angelashouse.org, or connect with the organization across various social media: Facebook (Angela’s House), Instagram (@angelashouseli), and Twitter (@AngelasHouse). Interested parties can also call freepickup@angelashouse.org to donate, or to shop; in time for the holiday rush and beyond, “The House” has you covered.

Sports & Entertainment Editor for The Messenger Papers.