The fan, 10-year-old Max Nocerino, proposed a series of activities with seniors in Forest Hills as part of the Little Apple Heroes essay contest. The contest was co-sponsored by Columbia Pictures and the mayor's office to promote "Spider-man 2," which spun its way into theaters Wednesday.
Max was one of the five winners selected from each of New York's five boroughs. Forest Hills also is the neighborhood of the film's star, Peter Parker.
In his essay, Max wrote "the elderly need to be remembered and we need to take a little bit of our time to let them know this." He went on to describe his plan to help local seniors: "I would assemble a group of volunteer children and some of their parents to bring activities and entertainment to these seniors."
His dream became a reality by involving residents of Forest View Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in bingo, postcard-making and a spelling contest.
Several of his friends helped, many of whom are members of Kidz Care, a community service organization formed by Max's father, J.R. Like Max, some attend PS 144, Col. Jeromus Remsen School in Forest Hills.
"I had so much fun and I'm sure everyone else had fun," Max said as the activities came to an end.
The winners were selected based on the feasibility of their ideas, said Nazli Parvizi, executive director of the city's volunteer center. "It was a really sweet essay," she said of Max's submission. "It was a project we knew we could carry out."
Along with the other four winners, Max received tickets to a preview of "Spider-man 2," tickets to a special screening of the original "Spider-man," an appearance on "The Today Show" with Tobey Maguire and $500 gift certificate from Toys 'R' Us.
His father said Max plans to share the gift certificate with friends. "He cares about people and he's willing to give time," Nocerino said.
Max's winning essay provided contest judges with a clear outline of what he would do as "cruise director" at a senior citizen facility. In addition to playing games, Max suggested that reading books and watching movies together could serve as the basis for "lively discussions" between his friends and seniors.
Max's inspiration came from his 90-year-old great grandmother, Rose.
"We have a wonderful relationship," Max said, adding they frequently watch Yankee games together. "She's very aware for her age. She's really lucky to have a sharp mind."
Spider-man's popularity led Columbia to contact the mayor's office for ways it could get involved with the city, said Columbia spokeswoman Gigi Semone.
"This was really our way of giving back and nurturing the special friendship children have with Spider-man," Semone said. "We've taken Spider-man's success and familiarity and put it to what we think is the best possible use."
Parvizi said the mayor's office was happy to team up with Columbia.
"It's just a great fit. You can never start too early with service. This is exactly what we love to do," she said.
Forest View Center has always had a liaison with the mayor's office, said Susan Marks Mahler, the center's recreation director. Although residents there are frail, Mahler complied with the request.
"It's difficult for them to participate physically but they love watching," she said. "It's bringing the community in to them. It's productive."
DJ Bradley, a physical therapist at Forest View, said Max and his friends provided residents with an enjoyable time. "When they see little kids come here, they love it," she said. "To see a kid so young recognize that elders should be treated with respect ... it's great."
For Max, who has entered essay contests in the past, this one was particularly appealing because of Queens' most famous super hero - not to mention his favorite. "He's funny. He's strong. He's noble and heroic," Max said. But it's Peter Parker's realness that sets him on the top of Max's super hero list.
"It's easy to imagine him swinging through Queens," Max said.
Reach editorial intern Jennifer Misthal by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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