St. Mary’s Kids Named Honorary Captains of the Team’s First Game of Season
The loud cheers from the kids of St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children echoed throughout Valley Stream North High School’s football field as the kids sat in the front row, holding up specially made signs and cheering for one of their favorite football teams, the Valley Stream North Spartans. The football team played their first game of the season this past Saturday and dedicated it to the children of St. Mary’s Hospital, one of the nation’s premier providers of post-acute care for children with special needs and life-limiting condition. St. Mary’s kids were invited to watch the game, and to their surprise, were named honorary captains when they arrived at the high school.
The smiling patients were greeted by the players who handed each of them a backpack with t-shirts, shorts and other goodies that were donated by a Valley Stream parent. The team then escorted the kids out to the field for the opening coin toss. The Oyster Bay Baymen, Saturday’s opponents, gave the kids of St. Mary’s a signed football as the honored guests of the game. “I had tears in my eyes at how touching it was,” said Holly Potoeski, a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist at St. Mary’s. “We really got VIP treatment and everyone went out of their way for us, especially when they made the kids honorary captains. That just made their day.”
This isn’t the first time the football players have gone the distance for the children of St. Mary’s. Valley Stream North football coach, Tom Schiavo, arranged for his team to visit the hospital last year to meet the patients. “I wanted my team to learn to be giving and I wanted to teach them how important it is to be thankful for what they have,” said Coach Shiavo. “My kids are grateful for this opportunity and they know it’s a privilege to meet some of the most amazing children in New York. They can’t wait to go back to the hospital and visit the kids again.” The team read stories to the kids, played games with them and got involved in many of the patient’s arts & crafts projects. “It was the best group we’ve ever had and one of the most rewarding experiences for the kids,” said Ms. Potoeski. “It was just amazing to watch a group of young boys interact with children who are facing some of the most complex medical condition, and they did a great job with kids, from talking to playing with them to tossing around the football with them. They came with so much energy and it really showed.”
Coach Shiavo vows the team will be returning soon again and is also looking forward to having St. Mary’s kids come back and watch the players in action again. It seems the kids gave the team a little good luck as they beat the Oyster Bay Baymen, 27-0.