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Island Park teen gives back to South Nassau Communities Hospital

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Nicholas Bolognini, an Island Park resident and senior at Long Beach High School, donated a dozen hand-decorated pillowcases to South Nassau Communities Hospital’s Pediatric Department on Feb. 9.

After Bolognini’s cousin, Jessica Gruenfelder, 17, of Massapequa, underwent four brain surgeries and suffered two strokes, Bolognini said he knew he wanted to give back to the Pediatric Department at the Oceanside-based hospital.

He spoke with Lynn Bert, a registered nurse and the manager of pediatrics at South Nassau, who suggested he make pillowcases for sick children staying at the hospital. Bolognini remembered his cousin’s blanket that she always held with her when she stayed there.

“We didn’t know if she was going to make it,” Bolognini said. “ … She said she felt safe when she had [the blanket]. I thought if these kids had something that’s theirs’, with maybe a character they like on it, they’d feel safe.”

Bolognini took fabric markers and drew and colored characters on 12 pillowcases. From Disney princesses and superheroes to video game characters and minions, each pillowcase had a different design.

“We put them on the child’s bed before they come into the room, so it’s there waiting for them and they take when they get discharged,” Bert said. “I appreciate when adolescents do community service and give to other kids.”

Bolognini’s mother, Donna, said that her son went through such a hard time when his cousin was sick and that the community service lifted his spirits. “He knew this was a perfect way to give back in Jessica’s honor,” she said.

Bolognini said he plans to gather feedback about which characters the children enjoyed the most and to draw them again when he makes another donation. “It was so great to see the kids happy,” he said.