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Real Life Reptiles Warmed Our Hearts

Gilda’s Club and HopeKids Families Bond Over New Friends at Our Creepy Crawly Day of Fun

Snakes and bearded dragons in costumes, oh my! Oh, and there were some pretty cute human critters too! This was not your usual Halloween shindig. It was creepy. And crawly. Literally. Thanks to Amanda DiMarzio and her son Elijah, Gilda’s Club and HopeKids families got up close and personal with some very special friends at our recent Creepy Crawly Day of Fun.

Elijah, who is 11 and acts as the family’s reptile rescuer, along with Amanda acting as mom chauffeur extraordinaire and all-around reptile roadie, were hands down the hit of the day.

Children and parents explored various activities, including dirt pudding, pumpkin decorating, face painting, and slime making. However, their inevita-ble return was to our reptile room. Our families were captivated by a bearded dragon sporting the tiniest witch’s hat imaginable. Initially met with some trepidation, fear transformed into curiosity, and then—dare we say it—love.

Little boy in pumpkin costume poses in front of spider web at Creepy Crawl Day with reptile poking out of his sleeve.

Our connection with the DiMarzio family wasn’t a stroke of luck. Amanda initially sought support for herself and her children as a young adult facing a diagnosis. Her family knows from the inside out what it means to walk into a place and know that the other families they’re connecting with really know what they’re living day to day.

Shortly after her first visit, Amanda attended her support group with her endearing bearded dragon casually perched on her shoulder.

Since that time, Amanda has always said that she wanted to give back to this Gilda’s Club in some way and just knew she could do it with their homespun menagerie. And she was so right! As they always are, our members are our experts. They know best what they need. What helps. And what it means to just spend a morning having fun with other families that “get it”.

We love it when we have opportunities to collaborate with exceptional organizations like HopeKids, dedicated to supporting families affected by cancer. Witnessing the connections formed among our children and families, and the growth of our communities, is truly heartening. The mission of HopeKids so wonderfully intertwines with our own by providing a unique support community specifically for families who have a child with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses.

Deb Sandvik, CEO HopeKids

We were so glad to have our HopeKids friends join us for Creepy Crawly Day of Fun and can’t wait to see them again in the near future!

Interested in keeping up with our family events and programs? Check out our monthly Program Calendar or email us to get signed up for our bi-monthly program newsletters!

Photography by Chip Sprague.