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Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital Presents Josephine’s Garden Day of Gold Kick-off
Story Number is : 091017101
Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital

Thirty schools throughout Bergen County will be taking part in the fourth annual Josephine’s Garden Day of Gold, to benefit the Josephine’s Garden Fund at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center.

Josephine Elle Hartung-Rispoli was a beautiful, courageous seven-year-old, who passed away after a 13 month battle with a rare, malignant brain tumor. Since her death in 2011, Josephine’s family has worked to honor her memory through various initiatives and has partnered with the Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation to open Josephine’s Garden and the Josephine Elle Hartung-Rispoli Research Lab at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. The Day of Gold raises awareness and funding for these initiatives.

The Josephine’s Garden fund is a community grass-roots initiative driven by Josephine’s mother, Heidi Hartung-Rispoli. In 2014, Heidi began the Day of Gold initiative at Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Park Ridge, where Josephine and her two sisters attended. In the first Day of Gold, students and faculty at OLMA contributed $3 in exchange for a gold ribbon. In 2015 and 2016, a special pin was designed each year to replace the ribbon. During this year’s Day of Gold kick-off event, representatives from each of the 30 participating schools are invited to join Heidi Hartung-Rispoli as she distributes the new pin she has designed.

When: Sunday, September 10
1-3 p.m.

Where: John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center
92 Second Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601

This year’s Day of Gold is being held on Tuesday, September 19, the day Josephine was diagnosed in 2010.

The idea of Josephine’s Garden was created by Josephine and Heidi. The garden was designed by Heidi Hartung-Rispoli, as a therapeutic space symbolic of life and a journey. The space, located on the fifth floor of the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital, is reserved for use by pediatric patients and their families, and includes a whimsical fountain of frogs, overlapping circles of orange, blue and brown to represent fire, water and earth – the elements of life, several planting beds and hand-drawn butterflies and flowers, which was artwork taken directly from Josephine’s kindergarten book. In the center is a 12-foot hand-hewn pine statue that Heidi calls the “warrior pole” where children can carve their names. Josephine passed away before the Garden was completed in 2012.

Heidi Hartung-Rispoli and her husband, Francis Rispoli, of Saddle River, have raised more than $600,000 to fund the lab and garden that bears their daughter’s name and the couple continues raise additional funds every year. The lab, which opened in 2015, is unique because of its location within the children’s hospital. It is also the only lab of its kind in New Jersey, which will help doctors and researchers find new therapies to treat children with cancer and other diseases.

For security purposes and planning, members of the media interested in covering the Day of Gold kick-off event must contact Sheri Hensley, Hackensack University Medical Center Communications and Public Relations Department, in advance to confirm attendance at 551-996-3586 (office) 201-315-9580 (cell) or

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