Marisa Tufaro Foundation Hosts Boardwalk-Themed "Family Fun Night" for Patients at Children's Specialized Hospital

The sights, sounds and smells of a New Jersey boardwalk will be brought to life on July 24, 2018 for pediatric patients and families at Children’s Specialized Hospital’s "Family Fun Night” thanks to the Marisa Tufaro Foundation.  In commemoration of Marisa Tufaro’s 15th birthday, the boardwalk-themed event will include carnival games, arts and crafts, a DJ and summer food favorites to celebrate a place Marisa frequented and loved. The event is being held in cooperation with the recreation therapy, child life staff and volunteers at Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

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 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 2017 following a valiant battle. She was 13 years old.

Marisa, who was hospitalized at different periods throughout her life for a total of more than two years, benefited from similar events, which helped break the monotony of a lengthy hospital stay and helped take her mind off her worries or discomfort.

The Marisa Tufaro Foundation’s “Family Fun Night” activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Carnival-style games such as skee ball, whack-a-mole and a claw machine

  • Live music from Chris Pedersen, one of Marisa’s beloved teachers and an accomplished musician recently honored with an award from the New England Songwriting Competition for his children’s song “Tree by a Rolling River

  • Music from disc jockey Frank Eckert, a physical education teacher at Lindeneau Elementary School and the head girls’ basketball coach at Edison High School

  • Interactive sand art crafts

  • Fun house mirrors, fortune teller and photo booth

  • Free raffle for four American with Disabilities Act accessible tickets to 5 Seconds of Summer concert at P.N.C. Bank Arts Center in September

“Thanks to the generosity of community partners like The Marisa Tufaro Foundation, our children and families have the opportunity to take a break from their normal routine,” said Sara Mapes, Director of Sponsorships and Engagement at Children’s Specialized Hospital Foundation. “Family Fun Night is a fun, interactive program that supports our vision here at Children’s Specialized – a world where all children can reach their full potential.”

The Marisa Tufaro Foundation was founded by Greg Tufaro, a scholastic sports writer for the Home News Tribune, and his wife, Cyndi, an Edison Township elementary school principal, following the passing of their daughter, Marisa, on January 30, 2017. The tax-exempt nonprofit’s mission is to help children in need throughout the greater Middlesex County area.

Children’s Specialized Hospital, a nonprofit organization, is leading the way into a brighter future for children and adolescents facing special health challenges – from chronic illnesses ad complex physical disabilities like brain and spinal cord injuries, to developmental and behavioral issues like autism and mental health. Children’s Specialized Hospital Foundation supports the programs and services of the hospital and all donations go directly to helping us pioneer new specialized care and serve more children in need. To help, or for more information: visit; find us on Facebook – follow us on Twitter @ChildrensSpecNJ.