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St. Mary’s gets grant for musical therapy

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St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children has received a $30,000 grant that will go toward enhancing the Bayside hospital’s music therapy program for children with brain injuries, the center’s president said.

Borough President Helen Marshall joined St. Mary’s Chief Executive Officer Burton Grebin and a group of young patients at the hospital last week to announce the grant and allow the children to display their musical skills on a variety of musical instruments.

“Music is universal in its appeal,” Grebin said. “This group of children has banded together and beaten the odds, overcoming insurmountable difficulti­es.”

Music therapist Patty Primiano led the group of children in a musical presentation, during which they banged on drums of varying sizes and shook bells to the beat of reggae music and The Four Seasons’ “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night).”

The grant was provided to the hospital by the Starlight Children’s Foundation as part of national Brain Injury Awareness Month. The 25−year−old foundation funds programs that distract children with chronic and life−threatening illnesses from their ailments.

Each year, an estimated 400,000 children under the age of 14 visit emergency rooms for traumatic brain injuries, said Paul Berger−Gross, director of St. Mary’s’ brain injury program. An estimated 3,000 of those injuries are fatal, he said.

“Many children who have had traumatic brain injury have lost the ability to express themselves vocally,” he said.

But the 12−year−old music rehabilitation program at St. Mary’s has given the children a forum for expression as well as acting as a step toward their regaining the ability to speak, he said.

Marshall said it is extremely difficult for her to observe children with traumatic injuries. But the hospital’s programs have put many children on the road to recovery, she said.

“It’s a hard sight to see, but I know they give the utmost care here,” she said. “This is a unique institution that is nationally renowned for its programs.”

The music rehabilitation program is aimed primarily at children who are recovering from serious injury, chronic illness or complications of premature birth.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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