Important School Dates
February 13 – Catholic Schools Touring Tuesday
February 16 – Lunar New Year: Public Schools closed
February 19 – Presidents Day: Catholic Schools closed
February 19-23 – Midwinter Recess: Public Schools closed
Sometimes you just have to laugh. That seems to be Guzun Kurun’s mantra while raising twin teenage boys with autism. The Tottenville mom’s new Staten Island-based web series, Surprisingly Complicated, portrays the many comedic highs and lows she faces in her own daily life while raising her two sons, Adem & Eren. The boys attended Eden II from 15 months old and are now students at the Hungerford School.
“We always tried to do different things with the boys. We aren’t afraid of their behaviors when we’re out,” Kurun explained. “So we took them to Ikea, Universal Studios, Harry Potter rides – and we ended up shutting down the rides. It was a miserable experience; but at the same time it was funny.”
Kurun, who worked for CNN and has some experience script-writing, decided to document these experiences into a pilot for a show, and now has a full season of episodes waiting to be filmed. Her goal is to feature children on the spectrum in every episode. Parents with children on the spectrum will surely find the show very funny and relatable, but Kurun noted that all parents will enjoy the humor and the frustrations that go along with raising children in general.
The first episode is currently available, a hilarious account of the family’s decision to use marijuana to offset the effects of their son’s medication. You can watch it on Amazon Prime, YouTube or Vimeo, or also link directly surprisinglycomplicated.com. You can check out their Facebook page here. The next episode, titled “Dentist, Haircut, and Waffle Embargo” is set to air in February. We can’t wait to see it!
We all know that children who are sick, hurt, grieving or have special needs, are the true heroes of the world. But what if you could make their day by helping them meet some of their own personal heroes? The Humble Heroes is a group of volunteers whose goal is to lift the spirits of these children by visiting local hospitals and grief centers while dressed as famous superheroes. The Staten Island-based organization is run through a popular local charity, the Carl V. Bini Memorial Fund. “From acting out skits and coloring with kids, to a simple high five and wave, the Humble Heroes inspire those young warriors to continue facing their battles,” reads their mission statement. “It is our ultimate duty to bring smiles to such resilient kids by taking their icons and making them a reality. Because they are the REAL heroes.”
Former USMC Sergeant Kenny Restrepo, who is an Annadale dad and serves as the resident Batman for Humble Heroes, talked to Staten Island Parent about his experiences being on the team. As the name suggests, he tells us it’s been rather humbling. He’s one of the newest members but has already visited the pediatric ward of New York Presbyterian, St. Peter’s Children’s Hospital as well as Camp Good Grief at the JCC, an organization for children who have lost a loved one and a recent Carl V. Bini fundraiser for a child with a rare disease.
The costumes are all custom made by members, and Restrepo says he used his art skills to impress his way into the group. “A friend of mine, one of the founding members, was telling me about the organization and what they do, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I asked to see pictures and I told him I was very interested in becoming involved,” he said. “I started making a Batman costume, and my brother-in-law Gaspere Randazzo also wanted to volunteer, so I made him a Robin costume. The guys were very impressed by the costumes so they invited us to come to a visit — and we fit right in. It was an amazing experience and the kids looked so happy. I remember overhearing two of the kids saying ‘that’s definitely the real Batman!’ It felt so fulfilling to be able to cheer them up.”
Humble Heroes started two years ago on a whim, after a group of friends, dressed up for Halloween as Power Rangers, were asked to pose for a picture for a child in a nearby hospital by the child’s mother. The group then made the decision to visit him in person and thus Humble Heroes was born. Restrepo says they’re planning to visit a school for children with special needs soon and hope to book future dates at many other schools. “We’re open to any location where there are kids that we can help bring a smile to,” he said.
If you would like to make a donation to Humble Heroes, go to binifund.org/humble-heroes. You can also keep up with their latest adventures and newest costumes on Instagram at @humbleheroes_ny.
Groundhog Day at the S.I. Zoo
Is winter over yet?? Just ask Staten Island Chuck, the Staten Island Zoo’s famous resident groundhog, who will once again emerge from hibernation on Groundhog Day to make his annual, seasonal prediction. According to tradition, if Chuck emerges from his burrow and fails to see his shadow then spring will arrive early. However, if he comes out and is frightened by his shadow, causing him to return to hibernation, then winter will persist for six additional weeks.
With Chuck’s impressive 80% accuracy rate, we hope he doesn’t see that shadow! Want to meet him? The Groundhog Day event at the zoo is free and open to the public, with gates opening at 6:30am on Groundhog Day (Friday, February 2), ceremony starting at 7am and Chuck’s prediction at 7:30. This year’s ceremony will feature a special appearance from Patrick Raftery Rock-a-Silly Band and the P.S.45 choir.
With spring cleaning on the horizon, you might want to start looking into ways to donate your old clothes. refashionNYC is a partnership between the NYC Department of Sanitation and Housing Works to make clothing donation as easy as possible, through a convenient in-building service. The program is 100% nonprofit; all proceeds from donations support the charitable mission of Housing Works to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS. No donated items are sent to landfills. They will accept both damaged and reusable clothing of all kids, accessories, linens, clean rags and clothing scraps. Bins are available to residents of apartment buildings with over 10 units, office buildings, commercial businesses, schools and institutions. Link to a signup form and more info here.
Toys 4 Autism
Christmas is done and gone, but it’s never too early for a charitable toy drive – especially the kind that puts smiles on the faces of children with special needs. When John Louis Sublett started his charity, Toys 4 Autism, this past Christmas, he was so thrilled with the donations he received that he wants to get a head start on next Christmas. With the help of his son, John Jr., as well as the South Shore Rotary Club, he was able to fill 180 gift bags with specialized toys and distribute them to the students of P.S 37, a school for children with developmental delays. John Jr., who is now 34 and has autism, was once a student at the school.
According to Sublett, the day he distributed the toys to the children (accompanied by Santa, of course) was one he will never forget. “All in all it was a great day for everyone, the smiles on the children’s faces when they received their gifts was awesome,” he remarked. “But besides the kids, you could see the smiles on all us adults that were there to share some love.”
Sublett says this was his first drive but it certainly won’t be the last. He aims to far surpass his charity’s success next year, hoping to fill a gift bag for all 400 children in his son’s school and possibly for children attending other special education schools on Staten Island. You can donate to Toys 4 Autism by visiting their page at www.gofundme.com/toys-for-autism or their website, www.toys4autism.org. You can also learn about the importance of specialized toys for children with autism at the Toys 4 Autism website, which thoroughly explains how these toys serve to help children reduce anxiety and concentrate.
The holiday spirit was alive and well this year as some of the littlest Staten Islanders worked to bring cheer to children who spent Christmas and Hanukkah in Richmond University Hospital’s pediatric ward. Daisy Troop 5376, and Girl Scout Troops 5554 and 5332 learned of the need for toys and sprang into action, collecting over 60 gifts for the children. When asked what they thought of the toy drive, the girls all agreed that it felt very special to be able to give sick kids something to help them feel better.
In addition to the Girl Scouts’ generous collection, Beeline Entertainment donated a life-sized Mickey Mouse to bring cheer to the young patients, while The Emergency Children’s Help Organization provided new DVD players for every room in the pediatric ward of the hospital.
National Wear Red Day
Don’t save your red clothes for Valentines Day! Friday, February 2 is National Wear Red Day, a day designated by the American Heart Association every year to raise awareness of heart disease in women. Heart disease affects more women than men and is sometimes called the “silent killer” because its symptoms often go unnoticed. Heart disease and stroke kill 1 in 3 women, yet the disease is 80% preventable. Show your support for the cause by wearing red on February 2 and sharing your pictures on social medial using the hashtag #GoRed. You can also make a donation to the cause. Click here to learn more about National Wear Red Day.
LEGO LIVE NYC
If your kids love building Legos as much as you hate stepping on them while barefoot, then have we got a must-attend event for your February break. LEGO LIVE NYC will feature 65,000 square feet of Lego experiences, with millions of bricks for visitors to build, create and play with. LEGO LIVE will include a range of interactive zones, each offering a distinct brick-themed experience. Visitors will also get to witness professional builders and workshops on the live stage, and much more. LEGO LIVE NYC will take place in Manhattan’s Lower East Side at Pier 36 on 299 South Street February 16-18. Click here to link to more info.