Local families have chance for a great time with their neighbors while at the same time helping children who suffer from serious medical conditions have their “best day ever.”
The second annual Guilderland Community Fest will be held at Tawasentha Park on Saturday, Oct. 5, from noon to 3 p.m., and all proceeds will go to Maddie’s Mark. The community event, presented by Christ’s Church Guilderland, features food, music, a rock-climbing wall, pony rides, a martial arts exhibit, bounce house and other family-friendly activities.
Dawn Jacobson, event coordinator and congregant, said Christ’s Church previously held an annual picnic for its members. Congregants decided they wanted to do something more geared toward the community.
“We started last year and wanted to reach out to the community and share with them what we do and invite people to have a good time and raise money for a good cause,” Jacobson said.
Last year, more than 1,000 people were estimated to have attended the event, and around $4,000 was raised to benefit the Rodino family, who has been battling Huntington’s disease. Each year, the church plans to select a different organization or family for proceeds to benefit.
Last year, the weather wasn’t ideal, but the turnout was still strong, Jacobson said.
“Being our second year it is really tough to guess what it will be this year and we can only hope that more people do show up and we have great weather,” Jacobson said.
Maddie’s Mark was established to honor the memory of Madeline Musto, a 5-year-old girl who succumbed to an inoperable brain tumor. The nonprofit strives to continue Maddie’s legacy of love and kindness through helping to support children with serious illnesses and their families.
Maddie’s Mark Foundation Board of Directors President Erin Musto, mother of Madeline, Amelia and Lucy, said she was “really excited” to find out the organization was selected for the event.
“I know last year for the Rodinos it was very helpful for their family, so I thought it was a very kind and generous thing to have the community help us, too,” Musto said. “A big chunk of this is getting to share Madeline’s story and telling what we do.”
Madeline was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a rare brain stem tumor that there isn’t a known cure for. Since the tumor is located along a delicate area of the brain stem it cannot be safely removed. Chemotherapy often is ineffective and drugs can’t reach the tumor. Radiation does offer temporary benefits.
“When everything happened with Madeline it was very, very fast,” Erin Musto said. “She had some symptoms, but we weren’t worried.”
Maddie’s Mark administers grants to fund child enrichment projects. But it was the “best day ever” program that really appealed to congregants and led them to choose the Guilderland family’s nonprofit. The program offers a family facing serious medical issues an opportunity to go to some place, visit someone or travel somewhere that wouldn’t be possible without help from the organization. Musto said the goal is to give each family a unique experience that’s individually tailored.
“We have several members that are very close and some that do help out with planning the ‘best day ever,’ which is kind of a local Make a Wish,” Jacobson said. “Trying to give those families that extra special time when needed is something that drew us in.”
Any New York resident 18 years old or younger can qualify for the “best day ever” program.
The most rewarding thing for Musto is seeing Madeline continue to touch people’s lives and helping families enjoy their time with their children.
“The day that people don’t remember Madeline will be very difficult for me,” she said.
There is no admission to enter Guilderland Community Fest, but donations are asked for at certain areas, such as for food or attractions. Jacobson said only collecting donations opens the event up to all.
Those who want to help out with Guilderland Community Fest, or businesses or organizations interested in being a part of the event, can contact Dawn Jacobson by emailing [email protected]