James Funaro waited anxiously for the door to open. He smiled at his parents and moved his eyes over the blue “Make-a-Wish” balloons that lined the ceiling.
“Is he coming?” the Nesconset boy asked the crowd in the room.
“Yes, he’s on his way,” his mother, Chimene, replied, trying to help the 7-year-old be patient.
James spent 300 straight days of his life raising more than $6,000 for the foundation through one simple task — putting on a tie every morning and not taking it off until he went to bed. Friday, he was at the Suffolk Make-a-Wish chapter’s headquarters in Ronkonkoma to see all if his hard work brightened the day of another little boy.
The money he raised is going to Javier Romero, also 7, of Stony Brook, who suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Javier’s father, Richard, said the boy learned about Hawaii from looking at pictures after he told his parents he loved beaches. James and Make-a-Wish are turning pictures into reality — Javier and his parents will be spending eight days in the state starting Aug. 20.
James’ inspiration came via picture day at Nesconset Elementary School last year, when he received a lot of attention for the dapper tie he wore.
Make-a-Wish had given a robotic puppy to his cousin several years ago when she was suffering from leukemia. James ended up gathering 147 ties from friends and family and rotated through them for nearly a year, raising awareness and donations from neighbors and organizations that heard about his effort.
“It makes me feel good because when I think about it, it just tells me, ‘You did a good thing,’” he said. His commitment included a tie made of duct tape and another made of foam so he could go swimming.
James also purchased two identical ties for himself and Javier to wear for a future playdate.
After that James will take a break from his ties for a little while, although he said he may start wearing them again when he is elected president. Until then he hopes to continue his charity work.
“I’m still trying to figure out a [new] way that I can still help make a wish,” he said.
Above: James Funaro, 7, of Nesconset raised more than $6,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation's Suffolk chapter by wearing a tie for 300 days in a row. Funaro got the idea after he earned some extra attention at Nesconset Elementary School for sporting a tie at first grade picture day.