I was a naïve 20-something inexperienced world-traveler when Bob and I first met. We had a shared fascination with Nepal, so we organized a group of 4 other adventurous souls and explored the country. We spent a few weeks dodging rhinos from a dugout canoe, trekking Annapurna south, and bartering with street vendors in Delhi. Shortly after that trip, I moved across the country and our lives took very different paths. My road led to Taiwan, and his to Angela’s House.
Bob is one of those people with “charisma”, that undefinable quality that makes other people want to follow him. I followed him through the Himalayas and he taught me so much about adventure travel. That charisma has been put to better use in the years since that Nepal trip, in finally getting people to listen and believe in a cause that has made a difference in the lives of many people. This story could be a really heartbreaking, “Lifetime-Movie-of-the-Week” story, but Bob is such a positive guy so this will just be a story of an ordinary guy making a huge difference.
In the beginning – Angela
Angela Policastro was born in 1989 to Bob and his beautiful wife Angie. Angela suffered severe brain damage at birth and required round-the-clock nursing care. Unfortunately, the nearest treatment facility was two hours away and the commute became exhausting. Trying to be there for Angela, they learned just how overwhelming caring for a medically frail child could be. Angela lived just over a year, and in that short time, she changed the lives of the Policastro family and, as a result, many others.
And then what?
Depression? Drinking? Divorce? Anger and bitterness? Only in the “Lifetime-Movie-of-the-Week” version. In this story, there was unimaginable heartache and grief that most people can’t even begin to understand. But the grieving was followed by action.
Shortly after losing Angela, Bob and Angie created the “Angela’s House” organization with the intention of giving families in similar situations some better options in caring for their medically frail children. They formed a 501c3 non-profit organization and had a vision of creating residential centers to provide round-the-clock care for these children and assistance to the families. The first “Angela’s House” opened in East Moriches, New York, in 2000.
It’s not easy to found and fund a 501(c)3, as I found out a few years ago when mine failed due to lack of funds and motivation. So I asked Bob…
What keeps you motivated?
“I want to help others, knowing what my wife and I faced with our daughter pains me to think others must face these challenges. I often say it is sad to have a child hurt in an accident or get a diagnosis of life-threatening illness, but it is made worse when they cannot find the support they need to help them. I have been spiritually blessed to spend years advocating for the kids and their families and to see that in the long run it worked and people began to listen, such a great joy.”
Charisma and Persistence!
He faced challenges but kept on moving forward with the help of the entire family. They have four children ranging in age from 19 – 28. It’s truly been a Policastro family affair and their efforts have resulted in 2 more homes – Angela’s House II opened in Smithtown, New York in 2005 and the most recent, Angela’s House III in Stony Brook, New York in 2014. The new Stony Brook location focuses on the needs of children who are ventilator-dependent, whose only alternative would be to live in a hospital or nursing home.
The “Angela’s House” organization also assists in organizing home care for children with special medical needs. It allows them to remain at home with their parents rather than living in a medical facility. This home care assistance often includes the purchase of medical equipment, organizing nursing care, or making the homes handicapped accessible.
What is he most proud of?
“I am proud of how I didn’t give up. I encountered a lot of people who didn’t listen, didn’t believe in me or our cause. I faced many setbacks as it was often me and the 4 walls around me. But to get some momentum and to now see how we help over 600 children is very heart warming.“
Any advice to others with a hidden passion but who lack that “Angel” as motivation?
“I would tell people if you have an issue, cause or problem that moves your heart then run with it. Let it become something that becomes a burning desire to help. Don’t give up! Your cause will change you. It will bring new meaning to your life. It will become the greatest gift to you. “
I recently saw this quote on Pinterest and immediately thought of Bob.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elizabeth Kubler Ross
If you’d like to know more about Angela’s House, please see www.AngelasHouse.org.