Puppets Bring Laughter, Love and Joy to Kids Who Need it Most
You wouldn’t expect a mom who had lost a child to smile so much. You wouldn’t expect conversations with a parent who no longer could hold her boy to revolve around “parties” and “dancing” and “singing.” But that’s exactly the kind of conversation you will have with Chrissie Lograno-Weinstein, whose 9-year-old son, Michael, passed away May 13, 2015 after fighting cancer for six years. But the positive outlook isn’t because there is no sadness. It’s because that joy, says Weinstein, is who Michael was.
“To Michael, everything was a party,” she says. “There really wasn’t anything he didn’t want to make into a party. He loved celebrations, and he loved to be with people. You’d walk in the room, and he would just light up and say, ‘you came back to see me!’”
Michael’s love for life was manifested in his fascination with one of the most “larger than life” kinds of entertainment imaginable — puppets. With a special affection for Muppet creator Jim Henson, Michael’s favorite book was Henson’s biography. He also loved Sesame Street, and even called himself “Ernie,” and his mom was “Bert.” Everyone in his family, including dad Matthew, sister Katie, and brother Timmy, had a persona.
“To know him, you had to embrace his love for puppets,” says Weinstein. “When he didn’t feel well, he would go into character. It comforted him in a way that no human being could do.”
It was that comfort that inspired Weinstein to start the “Mighty Mikey Foundation,” a charity that contracts Puppet Kitchen LLC to build the Mighty Mikey puppets for child life specialists to use in their interactions with sick children. Weinstein believes the puppets can be used to explain things to children such as what kinds of tests they will have done and where their feeding tube will go. Weinstein sees the foundation as a catalyst to nationwide opportunities such as providing Mighty Mikey books and plush dolls for siblings of sick children.
The foundation will host its second fundraising event from 4-9 p.m. May 21 at the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center in Fort Myers. All proceeds from the murder mystery/masquerade/dinner party will go toward making puppets for the Golisano Children’s Hospital. This is the type of fundraiser Michael would have wanted her to do, she says.
“People say to me all the time, I don’t know how you do it,” says Weinstein. “Well, I do it because he would want it done. He lived, not long enough, but enjoyed as much as he could. He would want me to help others, because that’s what he would have done. This is the legacy my child will leave, and it’s pretty amazing. It’s my way of parenting him while he is in heaven, until I see him again.”
For more information about the Mighty Mikey Foundation or to donate, go to the mightymikeyfoundation.com