Marisa Tufaro Foundation Donation Supports Art Therapy and Child Life Programs at BMSCH

A hospital stay can be an anxious time for children and their families. The Marisa Tufaro Foundation helped make these stays less stressful for children when they recently made a generous donation to the child life program at The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital (BMSCH) at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH). 

The generous donation will support instruction and supplies for BMSCH’s art therapy program and provide funds for infant mobiles, bubbles that will be included in welcome bags for patients, and toy cars that staff will use to transport children to the operating room for surgery. 

The Marisa Tufaro Foundation was founded by Greg Tufaro, a scholastic sports writer for, the Home News Tribune and the Courier News, and his wife, Cyndi, an Edison school principal, following their daughter Marisa’s passing on Jan. 30

“As parents, we witnessed firsthand the impact that these programs and the kindness of generous individuals can have on the lives of children and their families as they cope with a hospital stay,” said Greg Tufaro. “Marisa endured many stays in the hospital and art therapists played a major role in helping her cope and develop a passion for art. We are thankful to have the opportunity to honor Marisa’s memory by supporting programs that will assist thousands of children and families who receive treatment at BMSCH each year.”

Art therapy provides therapeutic, healing benefits for patients in hospitals. Art therapy can help patients open up and share their thoughts, feelings and perceptions about their hospitalization or illness through the creative process. Opening up through art can alleviate stress, anxiety, emotional distress and potentially minimize pain. 

“Expanding our art therapy program adds another dimension to the service we can provide to support our children, especially with patients who have acute psychological needs,” said Barbara Romito, Director of Child Life at BMSCH. “Programs like art therapy offer children ways to express themselves so they can cope with their hospital experience.”

This is the second donation that the Marisa Tufaro Foundation has made to BMSCH this year. In September, the Foundation partnered with the cheer and football teams at Old Bridge and South Brunswick High Schools to collect and donate a significant amount of toys to the pediatric patients of BMSCH. 

Marisa was born with a complex cardiac defect that required six open-heart surgeries. Despite keeping hundreds of doctor’s appointments and being hospitalized for more than two years, Marisa lived a vibrant life that inspired. A heart transplant, performed to extend Marisa’s life, tragically cut it short after a post-operative complication developed into a rare form of Stage IV cancer. After radiation and chemotherapy treatments failed to thwart the relentless onslaught of an aggressive disease that riddled her brain and body, Marisa succumbed to her illness in January following a valiant battle. She was 13 years old.

Marisa was under the loving care for her entire life of Joseph Gaffney, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Division Chief, Pediatric Cardiology at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. 

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