Monthly Archives: June 2016

Summer Family Activities in Brooklyn!


written by Jen #supermom

Here is a list of FUN things to enjoy with your families this summer, from a SUPER fundraiser party to a Hindu lamp ceremony, to a Coney Island sand sculpting contest. There is something (SUPER) for everyone!!!

* Jonah’s Just Begun “Heroes Among Us” Fundraiser (LeFrak Center at Lakeside, Prospect Park): Want to be a true superhero??? Come out and support the event that South Slope Pediatrics is helping host for our little friend, Jonah, on July 23rd from 12-2pm. Your kids will have a blast having their face painted, talking to a costume superhero character and playing in the splash pad while you bid on must-have auction items….all while supporting a truly SUPER cause. Oh, and a full lunch is included!

* Pier Kids Performance Series (Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy): The Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy’s eight week children’s series encompasses culture, science, and literature. The program draws on a wealth of family musicians and cultural groups like the Central Park Zoo’s Wildlife Theater and the Puppetmobile, as well as notable Brooklyn children’s authors to create entertaining and educational events. Activities vary each week and are accompanied by arts and crafts and an outdoor pop-up reading room. Family-friendly activities with the Uni Project and Private Picassos from 11 am – noon. Performances from noon – 1 pm. Repeats Sunday every week through August 7th. For under 10 YO, FREE!

* First Discovery for Toddlers (Brooklyn Botanical Gardens): Calling all explorers 2–4 years old (and their caregivers)! Plant a carrot seed, touch a wriggly worm, nestle into a meadow nook to read a story, or create a unique nature craft at special Discovery Garden activity stations designed for toddlers. Activities rotate seasonally. Repeats every Tuesday through August 23rd from 9:30-10:30am (and the garden is FREE on Tuesdays this summer)!!! Ages 2-4.

* Environmental Education Center Open Hours (Brooklyn Bridge Park): Get to know Brooklyn Bridge Park by visiting the Environmental Education Center’s 250-gallon aquarium filled with critters from the East River, a 10’-scale model of Brooklyn Bridge Park, crafts, a reading corner, and much more! FREE. Repeating every week Tuesdays & Thursdays through November 22nd from 3-5pm.

* Coney Island Friday Night Fireworks (Coney Island Boardwalk): Can’t make the 4th of July fireworks this year? No problem! You can see them every Friday night from 9:30-10pm through September 3rd. For the best seating, locate yourself on the boardwalk or beach between West 10th Street and West 15th Street.

* Youth Summer Programs (BAM): For kids 6-16 years old, the youth summer programs at BAM engage kids with a passion for creativity. Includes musical drama and dance, digital art, creative writing and animation sessions. Weeklong and 2-week programs offer extraordinary opportunities to build skills in a dynamic environment while making new friends. Runs weekly from July 5th – 29th.

* Hindu Lamp Ceremony (Pebble Beach, Dumbo): Help bring peace and harmony to our shoreline. Aeilushi Mistry performs the traditional Hindu Aarti ceremony at the park and enjoy a dance performance by a guest artist. Saturday, August 6th from 4-8pm. FREE.

* Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest (Coney Island Beach): On Saturday, August 20th, this FREE family event is open to amateurs and semi-professional sand sculpting artists of all ages competing prizes and bragging rights.   More details forthcoming at:






SSP: How did Jonah’s Just Begun come to be?

Jonah was born July 30th, 2008, happy and healthy. Jeremy and I couldn’t take our eyes off of our remarkable son.

At Jonah’s first-year well visit our astute pediatrician, Dr. Hai Cao, suggested we get Jonah an MRI. Dr. Cao noted that the size of Jonah’s head was “off the charts.” Nine months later, Jeremy and I received news that changed our lives a second time: Jonah had Sanfilippo Type C, a rare disease that is both fatal and incurable.

Love doesn’t falter for your child after a horrific diagnosis. If anything it grows stronger. From that point forward, we understood that every second with our son was precious. We no longer take any family time spent together for granted.

Jonah is 8 now and finishing up 2nd grade at ps10. He still has no idea that he’s sick and we plan to keep it that way.

SSP:  What exactly is Sanfilippo and how are children affected?

Sanfilippo Syndrome is caused by a defect in a single cell. It is an inherited disease of metabolism that means the body cannot properly break down long chains of sugar molecules called mucopolysaccharides or glycosaminoglycans (aka GAGs). Sanfilippo syndrome belongs to a group of diseases called mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS). Specifically, it is known as MPS III.

Sanfilippo Syndrome occurs when the enzymes the body needs to break down the Heparan Sulfate (HS) are absent or are defective. When HS is not broken down, the body does not release it. Instead, it is stored inside the lysosomes of every cell in the body.

To date there are four types of Sanfilippo syndrome. They are distinguished by the enzyme that is affected.

Sanfilippo Type A: heparan N-sulfatase. Estimated incident rate is 1 in 100,000 live births.

Sanfilippo Type B: alpha-N-acetylglucosaminidase. Estimated incident rate is 1 in 200,000 live births.

Sanfilippo Type C: acetyl-CoAlpha-glucosaminide acetyltransferase. Estimated incident rate is 1 in 1,400,000.

Sanfilippo Type D: N-acetylglucosamine 6-sulfatase. Estimated incident rate is 1 in 1,100,000.

Between the four types of Sanfilippo, the syndrome present in approximately 1 in 70,000 births.

SSP: What happens to a child with Sanfilippo Syndrome?

Sanfilippo is an insidious disease that often goes undetected for years. Most children are born with no visible signs that anything is wrong. It’s not until the preschool years that children start to show cognitive delays or course facial features; even then, the disease is often misdiagnosed.

Sanfilippo is progressive and can be broken down into stages.

First stage: The affected child will display delayed speech as well as mild facial abnormalities and behavioral issues. Some children will exhibit a large head, prominent forehead, bushy eyebrows, coarse hair, thick skin, short neck, full lips, low thick ears, a wide flat nose and full round bellies. Their facial features are described as “coarse.” Affected children are prone to sinus and ear infections, diarrhea, and tight Achilles tendons. Minor bone deformities are quite common.

Second stage: The affected child will become extremely active, restless, suffer sleeplessness and exhibit difficult or ‘quirky’ behavior.  Over time, speech and communication skills decline along with other cognitive and motor skills.

Third stage: The disease will take its ultimate toll. The child will lose the ability to walk, talk and eat on his own while his body shuts down. Depending on the phenotype of the disease, death can occur as early as three years or as late as 30 years old.

Currently there is no cure for Sanfilippo Syndrome. In most cases, treatment is limited to reducing or controlling the symptoms of this disorder by making sure that neurologists, ophthalmologists, cardiologists, ENTs, orthopediatricians, dentists and genetic counselors are consulted routinely.

SSP: How rare (or ultra-rare) is this disease and is there a treatment?

There currently is not a treatment for Sanfilippo Syndrome.  We do not know the exact incident rate of Sanfilippo type C. A few papers suggest 1 in 1.5 million births. By that measure there should be 4 babies born a year with Sanfilippo C. We only know of 20 cases in the U.S.

SSP:  What is the current research?

JJB along with our consortium: Helping Advance Neurodegenerative Disease Science (H.A.N.D.S.), made up of international medical research foundations, is struggling to keep the research funded. Our main research program is gene therapy, taking place in Manchester, UK. Since 2012, H.A.N.D.S. has collectively funded over $800,000 into this program. We are nearing clinical trial. We have one more pivotal study to complete before we can go to the Food and Drug Administration with our clinical trial protocol. Over the next two years H.A.N.D.S. plans to raise $500,000 to complete this study.

SSP: What is next/what can you share with us?

It has been a very exciting and progressive year for us. Our Natural History Study has finally been given approval by the National Institute of Health! If all goes as planned Jonah will be the first child to be enrolled in this study. Jonah and children like him will spend two days at Montiforie Childrens Hospital undergoing a battery of tests. From clinical tests to cognitive and behavioral exams, this data will help us gain a better understanding of the course of the disease.

The patient registry that JJB manages for all Sanfilippo subtypes has gained global exposure and the attention of pharmaceutical companies. This has helped us identify our global patient population, giving us a much better idea of incident rate and phenotype.

After clinical trial we will need investors to manufacture and commercialize our treatment. To help facilitate this partnership, we founded a virtual biotech, Phoenix Nest. The biotech puts us in a better position of attracting investors.

The biotech also gives us the opportunity to apply for funding from the National Institute of Health. We have been very successful in winning these grants. The rub, these grants are for type B and D Jonah has type C. The NIH funding stipulates that the science happens in the United States. Our scientists working on type C live and work abroad. To get around this Phoenix Nest is in the process of licensing our gene therapy so that it belongs to a US based company.

SSP: What is needed NOW and how can we help support you?

We continue to raise funds to keep our research from slowing. With our ‘Heroes Among Us’ event on July 23rd we hope to raise the amount of $17,598.00 to pay for the production of our enzyme for our Sanfilippo type C gene therapy program.

For information on the event, please go to: Event Info

To make a donation, please go to: Donations

For more information on Jonah’s Just Begun organization, please go to: