Gregg and Andrea took their two children to the walk and family fun day to raise money for the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center just as something to do as a family, and something to help out kids in need.
About six weeks later, they took , then four-and-a-half-years-old, to the doctor for a checkup because she had strep throat. The doctor found a heart murmur in Brooklyn, and told them to go see a pediatric cardiologist in about a month, once the strep would be clear. They did, and the cardiologist told them Brooklyn had a hole in her heart and would require open heart surgery.
“Part of it is you can’t believe it because she’s this healthy and happy child, and you’re like, ‘What? Are you sure?’” Gregg Benedikt said.
But the doctor was sure, and five weeks later Brooklyn had surgery at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital. Brooklyn, now 6, had successful surgery and is doing well.
“It was a big shock. It’s a little easier to talk about it now that it’s over because it’s over and everything’s good and well but it was really quite the shock,” Gregg Benedikt said. “It’s heart surgery, it’s not like getting your arm repaired. They had to stop her heart to fix it.”
Before participating in the 2010 Go The Distance walk, Gregg Benedikt said the family, who lives in Crestwood, didn’t know much about the hospital. Even after the diagnosis, they didn’t think to have the surgery at the Valhalla hospital.
“It’s funny that the first reaction you get for this major surgery is we only live 10, 12 miles to midtown and to the city, so the thought is you’ve got to go to the city to have this surgery,” he said. “You really don’t. It really is this incredible hospital.”
Since the surgery, Benedikt said the family has a connection to the hospital. They participated in the walk last year, and this year Brooklyn was named , which is this Sunday.
“I think it’s awesome,” Brooklyn said.
Gregg Benedikt said he thinks the family will participate in the walk every year, and that includes raising money for the event. This year Brooklyn has one simple request for donations.
“Donate your coffee money,” she said.
The Benedikts started a website -- donateyourcoffeemoney.org -- that tells Brooklyn’s story and gives some information about the walk. People can donate money to their team for the event through the site as well.
And so on Sunday, the Benedikts will lead the walk, which is less than a mile. Brooklyn will have on her Grand Marshal sash, and her parents got her younger sister, Quinn, a Princess Marshal sash to wear while she walks up front with the family.
The two sisters are excited for the walk, even counting the days until Sunday. Brooklyn hopes a lot of people come out and donate their coffee money. She’s also hoping two special people show up to the event: her teacher and Justin Bieber.
Gregg Benedikt said it’s still a bit surreal to talk about his daughter’s surgery, but he and his wife have been impressed with the strength and generosity of Brooklyn, as well as Quinn. Brooklyn was home just three-and-a-half days after having the surgery, and now is a girl scout and last fall was the only girl in her flag football league.
Last year on their birthdays, both Brooklyn and Quinn donated their presents to boys and girls in the hospital. Gregg Benedikt said this year, they asked Brooklyn if she wanted to do that again, since they didn’t want to force her to give up her presents if she didn’t want to. She said “of course” she wanted to donate them again.
“It really is amazing for us as parents to see how much she wants to give back,” he said.
Patch is a sponsor of the Go The Distance fundraising effort. Thousands of former patients and their families and friends take part in a one-mile, non-competitive walk around the Westchester Medical Center campus that kicks off at 9 a.m. After the walk, there will be live entertainment, games, and activities for all ages.