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LI man builds ‘dream’ playroom for child with rare condition

Jimmy Pannullo of Malverne is making a

Jimmy Pannullo of Malverne is making a "dream" playroom for Victoria Monteforte, 5, of Westbury, for free. He is seen here with Victoria and her mom, Lisa Monteforte, on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. Credit: Raychel Brightman

When Lisa Monteforte was contacted in January by a local contractor, his offer — a free renovation for her Westbury home — sounded too good to be true.

But Jimmy Pannullo, of Malverne, was serious, and five months later he has nearly finished building a dream playroom with a play doctor’s station for Monteforte’s 5-year-old daughter Victoria, who has a rare blood condition called ITP.

“We were going to give her four walls and paint, not this dream room,” Monteforte, 36, said. “It’s incredible there are people out there who want to do this.”

Pannullo, 44, is a home contractor with a unique hobby — once a year, he chooses a family with a sick child and renovates a part of their home at night and on weekends.

Since 2012, Pannullo has completed renovations in Cayuga, Oswego and Rockland counties and on Long Island, finding candidates through social media for the project, which he calls Be a Kidd.

Pannullo, who connected with the Monteforte family through a mutual friend, was interested in their story. When Victoria was 21 months old, she was diagnosed with ITP, a condition where the body attacks its own platelets, the family said.

While most young children with the condition grow out of it, Victoria continued to bleed and bruise easily as she approached her third birthday. That meant, for her, the condition is chronic, making it difficult for her to play without getting injured, her mother said.

“We’re doing the basement so she has a fun, safe place she can hang out,” Pannullo said.

Victoria’s playroom will feature a doctor’s station, because she likes to pretend to give her dolls the same IV treatments and medicines she herself gets every four to six weeks.

For all his projects, Pannullo sets up a GoFundMe online fundraiser to raise money for the materials, paying for the rest himself if donations aren’t enough. Pannullo donates his labor, sometimes paying friends and co-workers to help out.

“He’s a gift and he’s so enthusiastic about what he does,” Monteforte said.

Be a Kidd has earned Pannullo local and national media attention since his first project in 2012, when he renovated three rooms in an upstate Weedsport home. That project was for “Baby” Easton Friedel, who gained national attention after he was born in 2012 with Epidermolysis Bullosa, which causes his skin to break out in painful blisters at the slightest friction.

“I just wanted to help out a family for the holidays,” Pannullo said, adding that as a father with a young son, he has a soft spot for kids.

Easton’s renovation and Victoria’s playroom represent the largest projects he’s done to date, with Victoria’s fundraiser pulling in almost $2,300. Her room is on track to be completed in July.

“The main goal at the end of the day is to just help as many families as I can,” Pannullo said. “Be A Kidd is letting kids be a kid. If we can put a smile on their face, that’s what we’re going to do.”


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