10 years ago, a life changing event happened to Jill Wood and her husband Jeremy Weishaar. They found out that their little baby boy, Jonah, was diagnosed with a fatal rare disease, Sanfilippo Syndrome. Dr. Cao was instrumental in his early diagnosis, and this began the beginning of a very special friendship between Hai and Jonah. Please take the time to read this interview and learn how we can help our neighbor Jonah, and all of the other beautiful children fighting this terrible disease. THEY NEED OUR HELP NOW.
SSP: Before we get into the science and most recent research accomplishments, can you tell us how our good friend Jonah is doing today?
Thanks for asking. I love to brag about how amazingly well Jonah is doing! Dr. Cao met Jonah for the first time at Jonah's first year well visit. Dr. Cao noted that Jonah had a large head, off the scales and suggested that we go for an MRI. It's probably nothing... But let's make sure. First we went to see a neurologist that echoed Dr. Cao's advice. Dx day arrived a year later and was delivered by our geneticist. To summarize Jonah, has Sanfilippo Syndrome an uber-rare genetic disease. Life expectancy.... Not good. Jeremy and I were left with the assumption that Jonah would never say the words "I love you", he'd never be potty trained or eat independently. But first he'd go through the terrible 2's times 100, then plummet to a 1 year old in a teenagers body, leaving us wishing for the terrible 2's times 100 again.
We celebrated Jonah's 11th Birthday in July. Summer Birthdays are hard, everyone is out of town. Summer Birthday parties for a special needs children are even harder. Jonah only receives one or two birthday party invitations a year, his peers have outgrown him. Despite the birthday party invite obstacles, Jonah had the best day ever, several of his classmates from PS10's self-contained classroom, 460 came out to celebrate. Jonah was overwhelmed by all the love. A few days after Jonah's birthday we received word that Jonah had been accepted into the Manhattan Star Academy-Upper School. WOW! 2 months in and it has been the single best thing that has happened in our lives since Jonah's diagnosis. Special needs parents and All parents... Worry about their children at school. School is Scary for all of us. Truth be told.... I secretly wanted a para for Jonah to protect him from bullies. At Manhattan Star Academy all of our insecurities have been squashed, he is in the best hands possible. Jonah is thriving, he wakes up on weekends and asks if he can go to school today?! Health wise he has had no major complications (knock on wood) he has not regressed cognitively, Jonah is in a good place. Saving Jonah's life will take everything within our power. Knowing that Jonah is happy during this time is the best medicine that we could have.
SSP: For those SSP families and friends who are not already aware, can you please explain what ultra-rare disease Jonah has, and how children are affected by it?
Sanfilippo Syndrome is a genetic disorder. My husband and I are both carriers of the defective gene that causes Sanfilippo Syndrome. We both passed our defective gene to Jonah. There isn't a newborn screening for Sanfilippo Syndrome and there was no way of knowing that we were carriers. Because of this defective gene, Jonah’s body is unable to produce an enzyme, this enzyme’s job is to breakdown and recycle a molecule called Hepran Sulfate (HS). Because of this defect, HS is left to clog every single cell in the body.
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; even then, the disease is often misdiagnosed. It is most commonly misdiagnosed as Autism.
Sanfilippo is progressive and can be broken down into stages. Some describe Sanfilippo as a childhood Alzheimer’s.
First stage: The affected child presents with: delayed speech, hyperactivity, impulsivity and behavioral issues. Sanfilippo children have distinctive facial features, you must be trained to notice them: prominent forehead, bushy eyebrows, coarse hair, thick skin, short neck, full lips, low thick ears, a wide flat nose. Their facial features are described as “coarse.” Affected children are prone to sinus and ear infections, diarrhea, and minor muscular skeletal issues. The problems associated with Sanfilippo are vast and varied.
Second stage: The affected child will become extremely active, restless, suffer sleeplessness and exhibit difficult behavior. Many children are compelled to chew on things, grab at people or items. Some children have seizures others have visual and hearing problems. 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. Death may occur as early as the age of five. More common, however, are children that live into their early teens, with some surviving into their twenties.
SSP: It has been a while since we last caught up with you. Can you share any updates over the past year - I understand JJB has joined forces with the Cure Sanfilippo Foundation? What does that mean for you?
Yes, JJB has joined forces with our friends at the Cure Sanfilippo Foundation. Knowing that JJB's initiatives are in good hands with CSFF has allowed me the opportunity to direct my attention to taking our pre-clinical drugs to the clinic. The Cure Sanfilippo Foundation is ran by Eliza's parents, Glenn and Cara O'Neill. Cara A.K.A. Dr. O'Neill is a pediatrician; giving her an extra layer of understanding of this disease and what it will take to develop a treatment. The Cure Sanfilippo Foundation is committed to helping us raise funds towards a clinical trial for Jonah and the other children suffering from Sanfilippo Syndrome.
SSP: Where are you in regards to finding a treatment? What is the current research?
This past September my biotech, Phoenix Nest Inc. had our first Pre-IND meeting with the FDA i.e. an early Investigational New Drug meeting with the Food and Drug Administration. At this meeting we presented our data on the pre-clinical research for our proposed new drug. As you can imagine, it is quite the process. The fact that we're proposing to take a novel type of drug, a gene therapy and delivering it into the brains of pediatric patients triggers a very strict set of clinical trial guidelines. The FDA gave us some suggestions on how we can better convince them that our proposed route of administration is indeed safe. The FDA's suggestion will add another year onto our pre-clinical research and cost another $305,000. This isn't a setback, it is an opportunity to take advantage of the situation and incorporate a recently developed technique! Yes, the new study will cost us a ton of money but it will be a blessing in disguise.
SSP: As we’re coming to the holiday season here, many of us are looking for ways we can give. It’s especially meaningful as you are our neighbor and a very close friend of Dr. Cao’s! What is the best way for us to contribute? Is there anything we can do on a local level to support you?
That is very kind and much appreciated ask. One very simple way to help is by adding the Cure Sanfilippo Foundation as your charity on AmazonSmile. com. Secondly, you can donate here https://sanfilippodev.wpengine.com/meet-the-families/jonah/ Lastly, please follow our social media pages and share our story. https://missionhideandhelp.org/
SSP: What would you like for us to know about Jonah, and other children who live with this disease?
Jonah is an optimistic, happy and courageous 11 year old. Jonah is harboring an insidious disease that could take his life without cause during sleep. We are reminded of this today, as we mourn the passing of Ross, an 11 year old boy who lost his battle to Sanfilippo yesterday.
Thank you all for continuing to support JJB though CSFF!
xo Jill, Jeremy and Jonah
**** November 16th is World Sanfilippo Awareness Day. Learn how you can show your support here: https://curesff.org/worldsanfilippoawarenessday/ ****
Jonah's Just Begun is now under the umbrella of the Cure Sanfilippo Foundation. Please continue to support our efforts to Cure Sanfilippo by donating to CureSFF.
Join our Mission, "Mission Hide and Help"
We’ve all been there. Chasing our little ones at the park and all around town, wishing so badly we had a third arm so we could properly manage our baby, change them, and have access to only the absolute essentials...and not spend ten minutes digging through our too large (and often unattractive) diaper bag. Good news, your wish has been granted! Well, not a third arm... but the bag that directly addresses these challenges. Welcome Nell Shapiro, an SSP Community Parent, whose vision to create a trendy diaper bag fanny pack has come to life! Learn more about why she designed it, it’s key unique features, and why we might all want to consider getting in on her kickstarter campaign and purchase this “deliberately minimal diaper bag”!
SSP: What led you to developing this “deliberately minimal” diaper bag? Can you please tell us a little about your background?
I remember walking into Cafe Du Jour wearing my first son Theo in a baby carrier when he wasn't even 3 months old. At the time I was using the over-the-shoulder diaper bag that I had spent hours picking out and putting on my baby registry, and I just remember so vividly saying to myself, "I am never going to carry this bag again; I can't stand anything about it!" I just could never figure out where the straps should go, or how to minimize the bulk, and I could never easily find the one thing I was looking for. The digging and the weight, the bulk and the burden had to go. I daydreamed of a fanny pack turned diaper bag, and I poured over websites and baby shops for months but found nothing. I ended up settling instead for a steady rotation of tote bags, because my background was in education, not design. So while I had a clear dream of the diaper bag I wanted, I had no hard skills to bring it to life.
SSP: How did you come up with the design of the Kibou?
When I became pregnant with my second son, I knew I had to do things differently this time. I had moved into the world of the diaper backpack, which was a solid improvement, but so often it was way more space than I needed. It tempted my innate urge to overpack and left me digging, always.
The picture I'd had in my mind for the last two years of this minimal diaper bag that could be worn on your waist had never left me. So I went on Amazon, I bought different fanny packs, at least 5 different kinds of changing pads and multiple reusable wipes pouches. I started working out the design by cutting these bags apart and then sewing and pinning the pieces back together with safety pins. These mockups slowly made their way into sketches and drawn plans and eventually a couple of close friends connected me with a bag designer they knew in Harlem who could help me to begin creating a real prototype. That was over 2 years and 13 prototypes ago!
SSP: Other than fanny packs being all the rage and a very current fashion trend, what is it about Kibou that makes it such a desirable diaper bag for new parents? What challenges does it address?
Once I decided to make a real go of this bag idea, I asked one of my closest mom friends to partner with me as a creative director. Since day one, Stephanie and I have been committed to achieving the perfect balance between function and fashion. While the design of the bag has always been driven by its diaper bag purpose, the bag also had to be beautiful! Moms and Dads deserve to look good and feel good even when we're out with our Little Ones :)
But aesthetics aside, what makes Kibou different from other diaper bags, is that every single dimension, fit and function of the bag is driven by those essential items that parents report needing most when they're out of the house*. We made the bag just large enough to fit those items, and we left out the rest. For brand new parents, the truth is that it takes time to identify what those items are that you need most. You may feel most comfortable bringing extra swaddle blankets or burp cloths, outfits, even spare bottles. But once you're a few months into parenting, for typical trips out of the house we've found that most parents need the same few items each time they go out. Kibou means "Keep it By You", and the Deliberately Minimal design means that it fits comfortably on your waist and goes everywhere with you, effortlessly.
*Based on a 2018 survey of over 200 parents across the US and Europe that we conducted through Survey Monkey.
SSP: The idea that it’s hands-free and you’re no longer lugging a bag around is especially attractive to those of us in the city and constantly on the move. What would you say is the #1 most popular feature and biggest selling point that sets it apart from other diaper bags on the market?
People gush most about the built-in waterproof wipes pocket. The pocket is located along the back of the lid and is accessible while you're wearing it, at the pull of a zipper. There is something truly liberating (almost empowering!) about having a wipe at the ready as soon as your Little One has a gooey sneeze or puts their little hands right on the edge of a city garbage can. Plus, that same wipes compartment is completely accessible while you're using the changing pad that folds out of the back of the Kibou. So your Little One can rest their head on the bag, their body on the pad and you can pull wipes out of a waterproof zipper compartment all at the same time!
SSP: This also looks more unisex than most bags. Have you seen interest from dads as well?
100%! It's been awesome to hear from many dads who have told us they love fanny packs. And we absolutely wanted to release colorways that would appeal to diverse tastes. Vegan leather is not only incredibly durable and easily cleanable, but it's certainly gender-neutral.
SSP: I love how you show that it is not only a useful bag for that baby phase, but that it “grows with you” through toddler and bigger kid stages. Can you tell us more about how that works?
This was so important to me. I didn't just want to create a bag that would be relevant for a few months in a parent's life. I personally stopped carrying a changing pad well before my sons were out of diapers. So I spent a lot of time thinking about those items that we need most when we're out, and perhaps ones that we don't always have--for me anyway, that's always been bandaids and first aid supplies. It felt so obvious! Our super compact changing pad could be effortlessly swapped out for a first aid kit--what we have come to call our "Bou-Boo Bag."
Beyond this function, the main pocket is designed to fit diapers through size 6, but it can also fit a range of bottles and water bottles or snack choices. One mom even discovered it fits her own Kindle, headphones and socks for barre class!
SSP: How can we help support your kickstarter campaign and purchase Kibou bags?
Please visit our Kickstarter page to preorder a bag for yourself or a loved one! Our goals of $26,000 will go directly to funding our first major production run, and if we exceed this goal, we intend to continue building the brand and outreach to bring Kibou to parents everywhere looking to minimize and simplify their trips out with their Little Ones. It's not just a tag line, having a Deliberately Minimal Diaper Bag by your side truly allows your hands and mind to be free to focus on what really matters!
Kibou is entirely a labor of love, funded from our own pockets, designed and developed at night and on the weekends when Stephanie and I weren't working or with our children. We are so grateful for the support of every single person who has taken their time to learn more about this bag, shared or purchased a Kibou. We hope you'll join us and keep Kibou by you, too!
At South Slope Pediatrics, we are always looking for ways we can help build community and support our families, beyond the doctor’s offices walls. Meet Victoria Paduani, a SSP mother of two who decided along with her husband Melvin to take their family’s future into their own hands and build a family real estate partnership. Let’s learn more about this super hard working couple and their story in this month’s interview!
SSP: Before we get into this exciting new business venture of yours, can you tell us a little about you and your family?
I’m working as an Executive Assistant to the Co-Owner of Century 21 Department Stores for a little over 12yrs. My husband works for the NYC Department of Education for over 20yrs. We are a family of four (4) with two beautiful girls, Mariah who is 13yrs old, and Myah who is 8yrs old. We were both born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and our family heritage is Puerto Rican.
SSP: I understand you and your husband recently built a real estate business together. What led you to make the decision to start this family business?
Throughout my husband’s career he always wanted to do more to help people but wasn’t sure what he could do that would be beneficial to people, and would also fit the needs of our family. In the past we have worked with numerous real estate agents helping us find a place for us to call home, but we could never find that go-to agent that was reliable and trustworthy. We could never understand why agents were so quick to just show us homes that didn’t fit our family needs despite what our requests were. We found that agents just wanted to show us any home because they were in a rush to make a commission. After the stress of searching and searching for a place to call home, we finally decided that moving was stressful enough and not having an agent who could make the process easier was not acceptable - and with that we decided we wanted to make a difference. We have always had an interest in real estate and now was the time to make a difference for the hard-working families like ours, who just want the process of finding a home to be a joyous and memorable moment. Most of all we wanted to start this business because we want to be financially stable in order to make our family feel secure, and because our daughters are always asking us if we will ever have a home of our own. When we first decided to start our own business in real estate, we wanted to be a part of an agency that was known for being the best there is. We decided to go with Keller Williams because of their reputation of being the #1 real estate company in the U.S. and boy did we make the right decision.
SSP: How do you work alongside Melvin at Keller Williams?
At this moment I’m only working alongside Melvin at our home office. I do have a full-time job and since we are at the beginning stages of this exciting adventure it's not necessary for me at this time to go to the Keller Williams office. Currently, I’m working as my husband's assistant. My current responsibilities involve networking with prospective clients, administering all social media, copy documents, create marketing material and keep our home office organized for effectiveness.
SSP: What would you say differentiates you and Melvin from others in this real estate business?
I don’t want to put us on a pedestal and say we are the best there is, because it’s simply not true. We are rookies in this huge industry of the real estate business. There are many great real estate agents out there. Every agent has their own ways of working with their clients and we have ours. In my humble opinion I feel we are on the level of every other working-class family just trying to raise our daughters in this tough and challenging time. We understand how hard it can be to save up money to buy your own home, so my husband makes sure when helping his clients find a home, he doesn’t find them a home he knows they can’t afford. He wants to make sure when they are handed the keys to their new home, they feel at ease knowing they purchase a home they know they can afford. It’s not only about purchasing a home either because not everyone can afford to have their own home. It’s about the quality of service he provides to his clients in every aspect of their needs of finding that special place to call home.
SSP: Can you please explain how you are able to maintain a happy relationship as a married couple and parents, while at the same time work as business partners?
Melvin and I have been together since we were teenagers going back to 1994. Throughout the years we have learned so many things about each other. The likes and dislikes. We’ve learned that in order to maintain a happy relationship you have to be compassionate towards each other’s feelings and take the time to listen to each other. The key to a happy relationship and a successful business is COMMUNICATION, RESPECT, HONESTY and TEAMWORK.
SSP: How do you best balance work and your family time?
The best part about my husband choosing to be an agent is because he can work from home and I myself work from 9-5 like many other parents. We learned to multi-task and manage the responsibilities of our family, business and everyday life.
SSP: For those of us considering starting a business with our life partners/spouses, what would your advice be?
My advice would be to go for it! Life is too short and there’s nothing better than working with your best friend. As long as you put each other first, then you can’t go wrong.
To contact Melvin or Victoria about your Real Estate needs, please visit mvplegacy.kw.realty.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would prefer to call them directly please contact Melvin at (347) 784-2234 or Victoria at (347) 784-2232.
Another summer is winding down, and our focus is now on the start of the school year. This can be accompanied by anxiety (for both you AND your child). So how can we best prepare our children for the upcoming year? We’ve spoken to Kimberly Shapiro, an elementary school counselor at Hawley School in Newtown, CT and have put together 10 tips that will help us through the adjustment of a fun, playful summer to a more regimented school schedule.
We are THRILLED to be celebrating our 7 year anniversary today!!! We wouldn’t be where we are without our amazing SSP dedicated and passionate staff. To honor and acknowledge our employees on this special day, we thought we’d do a little Q&A so our families can learn more about them and their experiences here at the office. They are the reason why we have such a caring, unique and forward thinking culture at SSP!
What would you say has been your most memorable moment since joining SSP?
Dr. Cao: My most memorable moment since starting was dressing up as a teenage mutant ninja turtle, to bring attention to MPS III for Jonah's Just Begun. I got some great reactions from kids in the neighborhood and drivers along 5th ave and Prospect Ave.
Dr. Copenhaver: My most memorable moment since joining SSP actually happened before I started officially started working here. I knew I would be joining the office after taking time with my son, and I brought him in for his first newborn appointment with Dr. Wilson-Taylor. I arrived and of course was greeted warmly by the front desk and nursing staff, and then had a great first visit. At the end, the entire office - doctors, nurses, administrators - all came in the room with a bouquet of flowers and bottle of bubbles to celebrate Elo’s arrival. It was so kind, and meant a lot to me. From that moment on, I knew I was becoming a part of a very special place!
Erica: My most memorable moments are actually outside of the office when we are all just hanging out at a local bar or taking a kickboxing class together or just singing our hearts out at karaoke.
Dr. Acosta: Participating in the improvisation activity as a group was definitely a great experience where we not only had a great, fun time but also learned about each other and worked on team building skills.
Carolina: I feel that there have been many, many memorable moments working at SSP and most might not be qualified as memorable by most people but they have made a big part of making my work at the company enjoyable. From the every day early friendly “good morning” I give and get from everyone, to the signs of support when I or anyone from the team has been dealing with hard times in their personal lives, to our Friday lunches where we try to quickly catch up or share bits of our lives. Most memorable in the 5 years I’ve been with SSP: when I tried moving to Chile and the team surprised me with a goodbye painting party and the beautiful heart necklace I wear every day and reminds me that this is my family. Also important to mention : karaoke, improv class, yoga, kickboxing, and many other team building activities that have made this group grow together.
Matteo: There are many amazing stories about our team as we are a bit of an ‘unconventional’ bunch. I remember the day we were getting ready for the Brooklyn Pride Festival and 2 people on the team volunteered to build the rainbow arch made of balloons by themselves in order to save money and we ended up with hundreds of floating balloons in our kitchenette for 2 days straight!
Nurse Alex: Most memorable moment would probably be almost dying of heat stroke while doing kickboxing to be honest!
Can you tell us your favorite funny story about you and your SSP colleagues?
Matteo: We have our 'First Fridays' where once a month, on the first Friday of the month, we go out to a local bar and just chill and joke around. During one of those nights, Dr. Wilson-Taylor showed us her competitive side by quietly kicking everyone’s butts at one of these arcade games. There was that time when Dr. Cao rapped to the beat of Ice Ice Baby (dance moves included) during one of our many karaoke evenings. I remember finding out some very strange details about my teammates (sorry won’t disclose, but one of them does involve a whip) while sipping on a drink and sharing fries after ‘successfully’ (almost) escaping the Escape Room. And I remember that time when we were screaming our names along with our most outrageous quality during the Improv class we recently took.You might think, these are regular moments but trust me, try to live them with the people you work with and your work life will change forever, LOL.
Lorraine: My memorable moment or funniest story was when we all came together and went to Escape the Room NYC. We were all so excited like kids all over the room trying to figure out the clues to escape the room within one hour. We were all bonding and laughing but at the end we made it out of the room as a team in the nick of time.
Nurse Denise: One of my funniest moments I would have to say was when we went to the game room playing Jenga and learning the shuffle board game and karaoke!
What is the most important thing you've learned at SSP?
Dr. Cao: I’ve learned that life goes on regardless of our jobs/careers. I’ve been privileged to be an observer in the lives of many of our families who go through strife and make it to the other side stronger and more resilient. As far as our office, ALL of us have gone through challenges. The ones that check the junk at the door and focus on giving good service inspire me the most and actually process their circumstances the best.
Dr. Copenhaver: The most important thing I have learned while working at SSP is open communication and getting to know my work family. Every day, every situation is made better and easier when we know where we are all coming from, and can be honest about what we need and expect. It is a great place to be a part of!
Matteo: The most unexpected and amazing thing I have learned while working with this crazy bunch at SSP is that with everyone’s contribution, it is possible to create an environment where open communication, psychological safety and trust can power up a team that strives to deliver amazing experiences one human interaction at a time. Since the introduction of our SSP Company Culture and Core Values we have seen incredible changes in the team dynamics, and those changes have positively affected the way we interact with each other and with everyone we interact with. We have discovered the power of strong relationships.
Lorraine: The most important thing I learned at SSP are our 10 core values. These core values have guided me not only here at SSP but outside in my everyday life to improve and make things better.
Erica: The most important thing I've learned at SSP is the smallest things make the biggest difference. It’s so important to be present in the moment and really make those connections with whoever you encounter.
Nurse Denise: Being a part of the SSP family has taught me how to work as a team. Working as a team maximizes shared knowledge in the workplace and helps you learn new skills from one another that you can use for the rest of your career.
Nurse Alex: The most important thing I've learned would be how to work together as a team, coming from being the only person in a shift to working in a full team has been a big transition!
Dr. Acosta: How important it is to work as a team to provide the best experience for our patients.
Tara: The most important thing I've learned at SSP is our Core Values. My Favorite core value 10. Be True To Your Unique Self. I believe in that value because there can only be one you.
Nurse Taima: What I have learned at SSP is that a simple gesture can go such a long way. Being a little more patient and understanding that parents are under emotional stress watching their babies cry, goes a long way.
Carolina: Company culture and core values define our relationships as a team and with our customers allowing us to provide that “great experience”.
What makes working at SSP so special to you, and why?
Matteo: The people! Our SSP Team has special powers! They empower you, they support you and they push you to grow, be better, achieve the goals while allowing you to have your weak moments and to be human.
Dr. Acosta: Working at SSP you feel like you are part of a family where you are respected and love for who you are. It’s also an environment where you are encouraged to grow into the best version of yourself.
Tara: What makes working at SSP special to me is FAMILY, I leave my family every morning not to come to work . But to come to my work family to do some work. Some work places people dread coming to work every morning because it's not a happy environment. I'm Happy at SSP.
Dr. Wilson-Taylor: The thoughtfulness of the SSP is what drew me to the practice as a parent. My children were patients of Dr Cao’s before I joined the SSP team. And I was always impressed by the staff who made an effort to get to know me and my children. The administrative team creates smart scheduling in order to meet the needs of the patients, the front staff is always friendly, the nurses take time to make the children feel comfortable. I have worked in other institutions and my children have seen a few doctors over the years. So I know by comparison, the staff at SSP is great. As a parent, I appreciate the efforts of the SSP family.
As a physician at the practice, I am grateful to have worked with so many wonderful families. It is truly a privilege to know that families purposefully select our practice because it mirrors the diversity of our city. I have always wanted to be a pediatrician and I have never regretted that decision.
As an employee, I like the fact that we have had opportunities to get to know each other outside of work. The opportunities to go shuffle boarding, practice yoga or have our Friday lunches together is important to create a united staff and is invaluable.
Carolina: Working at SSP is special to me because of the people and relationships I’m able to develop with my neighborhood community.
Nurse Taima: What makes working at SSP so special is working with a great team...we couldn’t ask for better leadership. We care about each other respect, cheer, and share amongst other things. We are a family.
There are ENDLESS things to do in and around Brooklyn with our families during the hot summer months! Here is a list of 17 of our favorite ideas for July, including a family dance party at Greenwood Park, a Poetry Festival at Governor’s Island, and a Dinosaur Safari at the Bronx Zoo!
1) Fireworks Show, July 4th at Coney Island
Enjoy singing karaoke with family and friends on the Coney Island Boardwalk in front of Deno's Wonder Wheel, and then watch the fireworks illuminate the sky! Happening Fridays from June 21 through August 30, 2019, weather permitting. The party starts at 7pm and goes on till 11pm. Fireworks show is at 9:30pm.
2) NYC Poetry Festival , July 27-28 at Governor’s Island
Wordsmiths of all ages flock to the scenic Governors Island for an annual festival dedicated to rhythmic stanzas and gorgeous ballads. The Poetry Society of New York welcomes visitors to the bucolic landscape to enjoy performances, readings, vendors, artwork and even a Youth Poetry Festival that jumpstarts kids' interest in the genre. All ages.
3) Smorgasborg, Every Saturday and Sunday in Prospect Park
The venerable epicurean extravaganza spends Sundays in Prospect Park. No matter your preference, there's a little something for everyone. While kids can delight in sweets like fried cookie dough, those with a more expansive palate can opt for offerings such as seafood from Lobsterdamus, Boutros' pork shawarma tacos or PopdUp brewed teas, among seemingly hundreds of other dishes. This year, the new Pizza Cupcake and Fluffies Soufflé Pancakes will be on hand to wow visitors! Note that admission to the food fest is free, but each vendor charges various prices. All ages.
4) Story Time at Books are Magic in Cobble Hill
Each Saturday and Sunday, this enchanting independant kids bookstore in Cobble Hill hosts a story time. Authors read from their dazzling picture books, that can be incredibly funny, heart-warming, educational or all of the above. Be sure to check out all of the store's unique special events for children and young adult readers, too. Check out the lineup here. All ages.
5) Le Carrousel Puppet Show, July 6th in Bryant Park
For those who appreciate a flair for the dramatics and love taking in a show at the best puppet theaters in NYC, stop by the park on Saturdays from June 8–July 6 from 2–3pm for a grand presentation from WonderSpark Puppets. Goldilocks & The Three Bears, The Lion & The Mouse and other fun performances are on the roster this season.
6) Le Carrousel Magique, Saturdays Starting July 13th in Bryant Park
Now you see it, now you don't! If you little ones have a burning curiosity to uncover what's hiding in the magician's hat, take them to the park's weekly magic shows for kids on Sundays from June 9–Aug 4 from 2–3pm. Loonie Louie, Silly Billy and other tricksters are on the list of performers!
7) Bronx Zoo Dinasaur Safari at the Bronx Zoo (open daily)
Advertised as the "biggest, most realistic dinosaur ride in America," the new attraction shuttles families (with narration) through a wooded area packed with 40 ultra-realistic (read: gigantic) animatronic dinosaurs. One of the most notable features will certainly be the two towering Tyrannosaurus rex—as well as the vegetarian Omeisaurus that stretches an impressive 60 feet long. And to make things as realistic as possible, the Bronx Zoo teamed up with a paleontologist from the American Museum of Natural History—Don Lessem even served as an advisor on the original Jurassic Park! The experience is topped off with an ADA-accessible fossil dig area for kids to play in, plus some additional dino-themed activities around the zoo. All ages.
8) Splash Pad at Lefrak in Prospect Park (all summer)
One Brooklyn’s coolest summer spots, the Splash Pad is designed for children under 12 and their parents and care-givers. With over 20 water jets, the Splash Pad provides state-of-the-art water play and admission is free to the public.
9) Luna Park and So Much More at Coney Island (all summer)
New for 2019, Luna Park is debuting a brand-new, circus-themed section, with plenty of high-flying, ropes-course style fun, while the new-in-2018 home for certain sharp-toothed aquarium residents are sure to draw continued crowds, too. You can also enjoy the old-school favorites like the carousel and Deno's Wonder Wheel, visit the Coney Island Museum or Circus Sideshow, and scarf down a Nathan's Famous hot dog. Luna Park also has a bunch of family-friendly rides, including the Seaside Swing and the Tea Party spinning teacups. The new Rope Circus provides multiple zip line courses for all ages, plus stunning views of the boardwalk, beach, and beyond. The beautifully restored B&B Carousell is also a Coney Island must-see, though it's located outside of Luna Park, off the boardwalk. Tickets can add up, so purchase ahead of time online if you can.
10) Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6 (all summer)
Situated on a pier that just a few years ago was considered no-man’s-land, this park has changed the Brooklyn waterfront incredibly. It’s Brooklyn’s new go-to destination for families! It has awesome amenities, including the Water Lab, a stone-strewn area with water underfoot to splash in, water tables and a spinning water wheel, and Sand Village, a huge sandbox with molecular-looking climbing structure and flanked by two long metal slides. Add to them clean bathrooms, a food court where families can find the likes of fresh milk shakes and hot dogs, and even spots for fishing and beach volleyball and there’s not much room for improvement—especially when views of downtown Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and New York Harbor are included.
11) Brooklyn Bridge Pop-up Pool (all summer)
Brooklyn Bridge Park's new pop-up swimming pool not only offers families a free and fun way to cool off but also one of the best views in the city—plus the option of morning kids' swimming lessons during the week ($125 per week-long session). Slated to remain in the park for five years, the swimming hole is 30 by 50 feet and 3.5 feet deep and holds a maximum of 60 people, so keeping an eye on the littlest swimmers will be easy. After a dip, families can dry off on one of the 25 lounge chairs dotting the artificial sand beach while marveling at their proximity to the Brooklyn Bridge.
12) Ice Cream at Ample Hills Creamery in Gowanus (all summer)!
Always the most amazing ice cream, they are now offering a limited edition flavor...if this doesn’t get you planning your next ice cream outing, I’m not sure what will! Ample Hills is celebrating Walt Whitman’s bicentennial with a limited release of their Brooklyn Bridge Park shop-specific flavor, I Contain Breakfast Foods. A sweet cream ice cream with a touch of cinnamon, pieces of chocolate donuts and coffee cake crumble, I Contain Breakfast Foods is named after a line in Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and features his favorite breakfast treats.
13) Best Beaches for Families (all summer)
Warmer weather is upon us, but thankfully you can beat the heat at tons of places in NYC this summer including the many beaches. From Coney Island and the Rockaways to even some spots along the Jersey Shore, this list of beaches offer a full day of sun, surf and sand for families.
14) Big Bounce America, July 26-28 at the Aviator Sports & Events Center in Brooklyn
The Big Bounce America, which holds the Guinness World Record for the largest bounce house in the world, will provide a summer experience like no other. The Bouncer is a massive, multi-colored castle complete with inflatable basketball hoops, slides, a ball pit and more exciting features. All ages.
15) Famajam Dance Party, July 20th at Greenwood Park
FAMAJAM is a monthly summer-long, outdoor, family dance party on Greenwood Park Beer Garden's new 50ft tented lawn. Enjoy dancing, music, food, contests, prizes, games, activities and more. Kids (and their grownups!) can enjoy a cold Frose on a warm summer's day, dance outdoors to great music with the entire family, and have an outdoor afternoon lunch or snack at Greenwood Park. Dance the day away under the new, tented, 50ft Greenwood Park Lawn, rain or shine.
16) PSP Summer Fridays, July 12th and 26th at Prospect Park
Bring the kids, a blanket or chair, some snacks, and enjoy the live music. There will also be giant bubbles, rainbow face paints and a different musical performance every week. 3-5pm.
17) BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Concert Series at Prospect Park
BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival celebrates its 41st season with 29 performances, running through August 10. The programming, reflective of Brooklyn’s eclecticism and diversity, will feature a wide array of free, world-class performances at the Prospect Park Bandshell. Stroller Parking will be available on the 9th Street side of the venue.
Did you know that one of our very own patients at SSP classified for the national women’s soccer team? She is an inspiration to all, teaching us that anything can be accomplished if you set your mind and heart to it, and give it everything you’ve got. Meet Angela Aguero, our SSP FIT Ambassador and soccer prodigy!!!
SSP: You are quite the soccer phenom! How did you initially become interested in the sport?
Thank you! When I was about 4 or 5 years old, my parents decided it was time to put me in some level of physical activity to keep me active and they chose soccer because all you needed was a ball and a pair of soccer cleats. From the moment I started playing I fell in love with it. I remember always running after the ball and being really eager to score a goal. In 2010 when the men's World Cup in South Africa began I watched almost every game and that's when my love for the game was getting really serious.
SSP: Who would you say is your biggest inspiration - sports icon or other?
My biggest inspiration is 100% Cristiano Ronaldo and Marta. Both these soccer players started from the bottom with a dream of becoming a pro footballer and they dedicated their entire lives to give them the chance to be seen professionally. You always hear of other players coming to training an hour early to impress the coaches, but Ronaldo has already been there for 2 hours. Things like that - I admire their hard work and genuine love for the game.
SSP: How amazing was it be selected for the National Women’s Soccer team? Can you tell us more about that experience?
That day, May 18th, 2016, was one of the best and happiest days of my life. I remember I was in history class and my dad called me three times so I had to leave the classroom and call him back. He picked up right away and screamed that I had been called for the u15 national team camp in Portland. It was a dream come true really, when all your hard work and late nights pay off and you're given an opportunity to represent your country. It was such an honor. And I had also committed to Penn State an hour after that call which made the day even better. The feeling was indescribable.
SSP: What position do you play, and do you always play that same position?
I play center forward/ striker currently. I have played this position pretty much my whole life but when I was younger I tried almost every position! I played goalie for two years with a club team and I played right back for another two years at another club, and sometimes even today I can get pulled back as a center mid/center attacking mid. It's always good and fun to play other roles on the field. You can learn something from every position!
SSP: How do you balance school and soccer?
When I became a freshman in high school I had started training with a club which is in upstate New York (about a 2 hour drive). So going to training every day far away wasn't easy, especially balancing this with the demands of schoolwork. What I always do is try and do as much homework as I can during school free and lunch periods so that I don't have to stress about that when I get back home. The earlier I got my work done, the better so I could focus on soccer and not have to do homework when I arrived late at home.
SSP: What is it that you love most about playing soccer?
This is a tough question because I love everything about it! For me though I must say, nothing makes me feel more at peace with myself then while I'm playing soccer. If I had a stressful day at school or just didn't have the greatest day, I would go to practice and forget about everything for those hours of practice. Whenever there is a ball at my feet, I seem to forget about stressful things in life and just have fun with the ball. The freedom and peace the sport brings to my life is a huge one. As well as making so many amazing friends and having amazing experiences around the world!
SSP: Do you have any words of advice for kids, as to why playing sports and continuing to be active is so important?
Try and be active every day! Find something that you love, whether its running, tennis, soccer, football, anything and go with it! Staying active is not only good for you physically and makes you feel good and fit, but it also is so good for you mentally! It clears your head and you can just have fun! And when you play a sport, you can make so many amazing people and friends that you can play with and share similar experiences with!
Part of our mission at SSP is to create meaningful relationships with local businesses, building a stronger community in South Slope and introducing our families to these business owners that share a love for our local culture. One such business is iLoveKickboxing, which Jennifer Ma, an expecting mom and soon to be patient of South Slope Pediatrics, opened with her husband Rick Rodriguez two years ago. Bonus - it’s literally just across the street from SSP! Let’s talk to Jennifer and learn about how her business came to be!
SSP: What made you make the decision to open iLoveKickboxing two years ago in Park Slope?
I started going to the iLoveKickboxing in Bayside, Queens, where I grew up. I had gone through a huge family loss at that time in 2014, losing both my parents very close together. Trying to cope with my emotions, I found happiness in kickboxing. I started going 3 times a week and then taking double classes up to 4-5x per week. The encouraging, friendly and positive instructors of iLoveKickboxing was made me really look forward to punching the bag everyday. My husband and I wanted to bring this unique fitness experience to Brooklyn where there wasn’t yet an iLoveKickboxing location and help others the way it helped me.
SSP: Can you tell us about your personal background, and how you got involved in this sport?
I have a background in cosmetic marketing and have been in the beauty industry for 10 years. I am not an excellent kickboxer but that’s not the point; it’s about the way our team of instructors can help transform lives through confidence, weight loss, toning and emotional improvement.
SSP: Many of us have never tried kickboxing before. Can you tell us about the classes, and how someone is introduced?
Just like me when I first started, I never kickboxed before in my life! I was scared but my first day I was set up with an awesome instructor who stayed with me 1-1 throughout the entire class. They showed me at a slower pace how to do the proper moves. I was definitely out of breath but it was so empowering. I knew I had to stick with it and I signed up for a membership. The more I went, the more I fell in love with the fun workout. It will be the BEST HOUR OF YOUR DAY. Anyone who is interested to try out a class can go to iLoveKickboxing.com and sign up for a 3 class trial with a pair of free gloves for only $19.99. Our goal is to ensure our first day friends do not feel initiated and know that you will have someone right next to you to guide you the entire way.
SSP: Would you suggest your classes for all ages and all levels of athleticism?
We welcome everyone that is 18 years or older and all fitness levels, especially beginner. If you are 13-17 years old, a parent or legal guardian is required to sit with you the entire class on the first day only.
SSP: How does the kickboxing workout differ from other workouts?
We walk you through step by step and “hold your hand” (but not literally) on your first day to make you feel as comfortable as possible. You will feel the positive, upbeat energy of the studio from our staff members the moment you walk through our door! It will be the best hour of your day because it is like you are at a “party” with some of the nicest people while leaving feeling sore and sweaty. We promise to deliver the best 1 hour of your day with a total HIIT body workout that is fun, consistent and never boring. We’ve seen so many transformations from our members within 6 weeks of working out at least 3x per week with us and welcome others to join us so we can help them reach their fitness goals.
SSP: As someone who knows very little about kickboxing, I would think this would be an incredible way to let out all frustrations and stress. What do you think are the most important benefits?
The most important benefits of kickboxing is to forget about everything that happened in your day and to focus only on you-this is your 1 hour that you dedicate to yourself to releasing those endorphins in your body that leaves you feel accomplished, empowered and healthy. Not only do our members see weight loss, inches lost, but the way they feel the day after or 36 hours after each workout makes them skip to work happy!
SSP: I understand that not only do you help make people feel amazing from taking your classes, but you make them feel good about donating to special causes. Can you tell us more?
We donate as much as possible to the local community by selecting a few schools a year to donate a charity basket, working with Little Essentials to help with baby gear donations, and working with members to help with their individual charities that they believe in. With every check in on Facebook or Instagram, a member is contributing to a different cause a month from donating dog food to a shelter to 3 meals to a child in need. We are part of a franchise but as a local business owner, my mission is to help as many people as possible inside and outside of our studio.
For more information, please go to https://www.ilovekickboxing.com/studio/signup/Park-Slope-NY or call 347.464.8818 3447.464.8818
At South Slope Pediatrics, being deeply involved in our local culture and community and connecting with like-minded businesses is at the core of our philosophy. One such local business that we’ve been so lucky to establish a relationship with is Align, a boutique wellness studio just a few blocks down the street from us. In fact, our team just enjoyed an amazing yoga class there this past month! Let’s learn more about how Align came to be and about the co-founder and owner of this practice, Dr. Brown.
SSP: Congratulations on the almost 5 year anniversary of Align! Although quite an accomplishment in itself, I understand that you and your wife Pamela have been involved in fitness and training for many years. How did your path lead you to opening up Align, right here in Park Slope?
Thanks! I can’t believe it’s been nearly 5 years! I’ve actually been a doctor of chiropractic for 29 years and have always been an athlete. I had considered for quite a while exactly what I wanted my practice to look like and how I could best serve our South Slope community. One day I was walking home from a yoga class - we’ve lived on 18th Street since 2005 - and saw the “for rent” sign in the window. Pam and I had ideas for other spaces over the years and had a business plan ready to go, and so I called the number off the sign and the rest is history.
SSP: What made you personally so invested in health and wellness? Can you tell us a little about your background?
My dad was an MD, one of the earliest physiatrists, and was always interested in natural healing. In our home we always were encouraged to play sports, be fit, and eat healthily. When I was in high school, I was on the football team. I had injured myself at a Tuesday scrimmage and didn’t think I’d be able to play in Saturday’s big game. My dad took me to a chiropractor, and I was just hooked. I was back on the field with the team by Thursday and played in the game that Saturday. I knew then and there that I was going to be a chiropractor. For me it was incredibly effective and the perfect combination of science and natural healing. I am still fascinated by anything to do with the body and movement, and continue to learn, so I am happy with my choice.
SSP: What would you say is your mission statement at Align, and what is it that you specifically set out to do for those who join your classes?
Our mission is simple: to use natural, but science-based techniques to promote the wellness of our community including chiropractic, exercise and functional nutrition. Our classes are built around a chiropractic vision for wellness, which emphasizes a highly personalized dynamic balance that is ever-changing toward enabling the innate ability of the body to heal and keep itself healthy. The components of this dynamic balance include alignment, balance, strength training, cardiovascular conditioning, core stability, flexibility and recovery. In addition to the classes we have become known for we offer functional nutrition, chiropractic and myofascial therapy. We hope to be “one stop shopping” for the South Slope’s health and wellness needs.
SSP: Can you tell us about your current class offering? Are there certain areas of focus/expertise that we should know about?
Our class offerings are in three categories: yoga, functional fitness and contemporary Pilates. All of our classes emphasize mindful movement and a personalized approach to alignment. Our yoga offerings include athletic Vinyasa-style Yoga Flow classes, Hatha based Yoga Ground classes, and Iyengar based classes that incorporate our yoga suspension wall - Yoga Fly and Yoga Heal. Our functional fitness classes emphasize strength building, cardio and mobility. These classes include Align 1:10, Align Ignite and Align Roll, and they incorporate some of my favorite tools - kettlebells, TRX, foam rollers and BOSUs. And our Pilates based classes include Align Core, Align Fusion and Align Define. These are fun, upbeat classes that emphasize core stability. The primary focus of the studio is on alignment and balance. We believe that diversity of movement is best for all bodies and that a positive, welcoming, and warm space where everybody is truly welcome is the best environment for wellness. The emotional piece of wellness shouldn’t be overlooked, and that includes feeling good about oneself for showing up and taking care of one’s health and wellbeing in an environment of compassion and acceptance.
SSP: You have quite the resume! In addition to being a certified yoga and fitness instructor, you are also a licensed chiropractor, certified clinical nutritionist and certified chiropractic sports physician! Do you offer any of these other services at Align as well?
Actually, I became certified as an exercise physiologist, yoga instructor and clinical nutritionist, after becoming a chiropractor. I love studying the body and so I also took an additional two years of classes to become a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician. I don’t want my patients coming repeatedly for the same condition. I always want to get rid of my patients in a sense. Sort of put myself out of business. In order to assure this I have to be able to teach them what they need to do on their own. This almost always entails some combination of yoga, core work, rehab, and body-mind centering.
SSP: I think for most of us moms and dads of young ones, our health and wellness often take a backseat to our children’s needs. Can you please tell our readers why it’s essential to make this more of a priority, and how Align can help them reach their goals?
It’s sort of like what they say on a plane, that you are of little use to others until you put the mask on yourself first. We want to raise a generation of well-balanced kids who are fully engaged with the world. For me, I saw my parents engaging in healthy activities like proper rest, exercise and eating habits and that encouraged me take this life-style on for myself and to make wellness my life. Whatever your wellness goals or needs, we are here to support you! Yes, you do have to make the time, but we have a variety of memberships and packages to suit a variety of needs and budgets. If you can make a commitment to coming 7 or more times a month, our Unlimited Wellness Membership is the best value. It even includes regular wellness evaluations with me to make sure that folks are keeping up with their goals and can have any specific questions answered.
We also try to create a class schedule that is conducive for busy Brooklynites. For example, we call Sundays “Self Care Sunday” at Align Brooklyn. Our Sunday schedule includes two sets of classes that are easy to take back to back: Align Ignite at 11am and Align Roll at 12 noon, and Yoga Flow at 3pm and Yoga Melt (restorative practice) at 4:30pm. These are Yin/Yang combos that cover a variety of physical and mental needs. We also offer 6:30am fitness classes every weekday, as well as 7:30pm and 8:00pm yoga classes on weekday evenings. I also offer free wellness workshops to the community on topics like posture, foam rolling and nutrition. Folks can find out about these on the workshop section of our website at www.alignbrooklyn.com.
Most of us know someone who has hired a doula for support during childbirth, but did you know that there are postpartum doulas who specifically assist during the newborn stage? They can be an unparalleled means of support and comfort for new moms, both physically and emotionally. In fact, moms who work with doulas often report lower incidences of postpartum depression, higher self-esteem, improved mother-infant interaction and a better chance of breastfeeding success. To learn more about the benefits, we’ve spoken to Park Slope resident and mom of 2, Mika Kleban, a doula servicing new moms in the neighborhood.
SSP: Many of us, myself included, have never worked with a doula before. Can you tell us what your key role is in a new mother’s life? What do you think is the most critical benefit of hiring a doula?
Having a baby is one of the most profound life events there is. Having support can make an enormous difference in the way families experience labor, delivery and the early days with a new baby. When extended family members aren't available or they are not the right fit to lend this support, doulas can fill this need beautifully. I look to support not only the mother, but the partner too. The whole family unit is going through this together. Meeting with mother and partner (if applicable) prior to delivery can, in of itself, help the parent to feel aware and more in control of what their future will hold. Whether they are seeking support with their labor, postpartum care - or both - they are proactively taking care of themselves and their families needs. The greatest benefits a doula can provide to each family varies depending on their individual needs. In the postpartum realm, for one family it may be support with breastfeeding and aiding in the mothers self care. For another, the guidance on how to care for the new baby or providing emotional support may be paramount. From keeping the dirty dishes at bay to being a source of information and comfort... the benefits are abound!
SSP: What led you to become a doula? Did your own experience inspire you down this path?
A long while back I was thrust into a situation where I helped a friend give birth to her baby in an intense and challenging delivery. I left that experience feeling in my element and inspired and I was interested in helping birthing families ever since. Fast forward 6 or so years and I had my first daughter and it only solidified my desire to be a support to families in the birthing world.
SSP: Understanding that lack of sleep and lack of support are major contributors to postpartum depression, I would think a doula can aid greatly in this respect. How do you see your work and contributions in a new mother’s life combat PPD?
Not only does having the support of a postpartum doula help new parents to have a healthier and happier adjustment to life with their new baby, but it can also play the important role of identifying postpartum depression in a new parent. Many hands make for light work and they definitely help to get parents better sleep, well fed and cared for. I approach my work with families with the intention of supporting them towards the goal of leaving them healed, happy, educated, strong and self sufficient.
SSP: How would you describe your doula style?
I would say that I am intuitive with my care. I try to anticipate the needs of my clients. Often new parents aren't sure of exactly what they need or want and that can cause anxiety. I am there as your ally in whatever way you need. I believe that keeping a sense of humor going here and there goes a long way too.
SSP: Has there been one experience you’ve experienced as a doula that you think is very meaningful, and would like to share with us?
Many of my experiences are very dear to me and that is what I cherish about my work. The most rewarding and special experiences for me are definitely those where I have been able to help a new parent out of a very fearful and anxious place and restore their sense of being in control. There is one mom in particular that stands out, but I have had the chance to be there for parents in this way multiple times and I am grateful for that.
A recent client of Mika’s had this to say about her experience:
“After the birth of my first child, Mika was like a fairy godmother. She was endlessly kind, optimistic, and calming, exceptionally reliable and supportive, and could somehow predict what I needed before I knew I needed it. Despite frigid winter storms, she always arrived on time and was available to answer questions - no matter how small - any time of day. She brought warmth and happiness into our home each time she arrived, and was as essential to my physical recovery from childbirth as to my mental and emotional recovery.
Mika wasn't just there for me or my baby, but also essential to giving my husband support as a new father. As first-time parents, we were often unsure or overwhelmed with our newborn, but she consistently lifted us up, and reminded us to trust our instincts.
No task was too small for Mika - she would fold laundry, pick-up groceries, and make me (delicious!) breakfasts, as well as give exceptional care to our son while I napped or simply needed a break. She was also there for me while I struggled with the stress and sadness that accompanied breastfeeding difficulties, a part of motherhood I was not prepared for.
I wish every mother had the support that Mika gave me and my family. I recommend her with my full heart and highest compliments”.
To contact Mika Kleban, please reach out to email@example.com and we will share her details.