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Spencer Foundation to buy video games for pediatric patients

Eric Garcia, 11, of Brentwood, plays a video

Eric Garcia, 11, of Brentwood, plays a video game in his hospital room at Stony Brook University Hospital in Stony Brook, Aug. 3, 2017. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

A local charity is raising money to give children’s hospitals a safe, clean way for pediatric patients to play video games with friends and volunteers.

The Spencer Foundation, which aims to help children’s hospitals on Long Island, will hold its first fundraiser on Saturday. Its goal is to raise $8,000 toward buying wireless PlayStation 4 consoles for Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said the charity’s founder, Jeanine Spencer, 57, of Huntington.

Many of the hospital’s young patients live in isolation because of compromised immune systems, and wireless game consoles allow those children to have fun with hospital volunteers in an environment with a lower risk of infection.

“It’s to help them cope better. To make it a better experience so it [their condition] is not so traumatizing,” said Tom Tana, a volunteer at the hospital.

The effort, “Operation Playcation,” is organized in cooperation with the hospital’s Child Life Services Department, Spencer said.

Child Life Services works to help kids feel safe and comfortable while undergoing treatment, said Joan Alpers, the department’s director. “They have the opportunity to feel good about themselves even when things are difficult or scary,” she said. “We’re so grateful that people want to take time out of their day to share their talents with kids that are sick, and put a smile on their face.”

As a hospital volunteer during the last year, Spencer said she understands that the kids want the opportunity to have fun during treatment, even if they have to remain isolated. Even providing one extra game CD means a higher risk of infection. Newer consoles, however, can store game libraries in the cloud.

“Most of my day [volunteering] on Sunday is spent with alcohol swabs,” Spencer said. “Any time someone touches something, we have to clean it again.”

Spencer established the foundation in March 2016 in memory of her late wife, Jean Spencer, who died two years ago after a 10-year battle with ovarian cancer.

“She says, ‘You know, I had a good life, and then I got cancer. Most kids with cancer, not so much,’ ” Spencer said of her 30-year partner, whom she married in 2015. “In the last few days before she passed, she said to me: ‘We both don’t have to be gone to start doing good.’ So I said, ‘I’m all in.’ ”

Eric Garcia, 11, of Brentwood, played an Xbox 360 with a wireless controller at the hospital Thursday. He said his favorite game was “Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham” because it had his favorite superhero: Robin from DC Comics.

The fundraiser will be held Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. at North Village Tavern in Rockville Centre.


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