When Malverne resident Jimmy Pannullo isn’t busy running his construction business, E&F Contracting — a Franklin Square-based company — he is working to make a better life for sick children.
Since 2012, Pannullo, 44, has been using his 32 years of experience in construction to build playrooms, renovate homes and do whatever else a family needs to make life better for their sick child — gratis. He has traveled across New York, from Oswego to Rockland County to Long Island — to help families that are financially strapped.
“I don’t like to see children suffer,” said Pannullo, who has averaged one project per year since he began his charitable effort under the name Be A Kidd. With each family, Pannullo sets up a GoFundMe page to raise money to cover the purchase of materials: sheetrock, rugs, cabinetry and whatever else might be needed. He donates all of the labor — his and that of any assistants — and covers the costs of supplies not funded through the crowdsourcing account. Because each project is different, the hours necessary for completion and the money required vary greatly.
So far, Pannullo has done projects in Oceanside, two upstate (in Weedsport and Oswego), another in Rockland County and, last week, he was in the middle of a project he started in March for Victoria Monteforte, of Westbury.
Victoria, 5, has suffered from idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, an autoimmune disease that has caused her body to attack its own blood patelets, leading to regular bleeding and bruising, since she was 21 months old. When children under 3 are diagnosed with ITP, the condition disappears in most cases.
“But Victoria is a special case and was labeled chronic,” her motherm Lisa Monteforte, said. After two years of trial and error with different medications, doctors finally discovered one that helped Victoria. Now she takes it twice a day, and each month or so, she goes to Winthrop University Hospital for IV treatments to replace her platelets.
But the treatments aren’t perfect, and almost invariably, she will suffer side effects afterward that will put her back in the hospital.
Meanwhile, her family, who had moved into Lisa’s parents’ home in Westbury, wanted to use the basement for a children’s playroom, but couldn’t renovate due to lack of time and funding. Through a friend, Monteforte was introduced to Pannullo. “He called me and said, ‘I would love to help you and your family,’” Monteforte said. “I said, ‘Are you serious?’ It didn’t really make sense to me. What person does this for you and doesn’t even know you?”
Since February, Pannullo has worked on a playroom that will feature new electrical work and custom cabinetry — including a desk — crown molding, an electric fireplace and a new hot air system. “This is a complete renovation,” he said from Monteforte’s home last week.
Pannullo works on the house after his regular workday and on weekends when he’s available. As of last Friday, his GoFundMe page for the project, “Victoria’s Play Room,” had raised nearly $1,200 from private donors and another $1,000 from State Farm insurance, which donated the funds after his efforts were featured on NBC’s “Today Show.”
Four times a year, Pannullo also runs triathlons to raise money for the Cohen’s Children’s Hospital, and each year he raises several thousand dollars. Additionally, he gathers items for Toys for Tots annual drive. “I’ll set up toy boxes at certain locations, and will bring what I collect to the Ronald McDonald house every year,” Pannullo said. “This past Christmas we had 30 boxes.”
Another project he’s working on is a charity bike tour that will begin in Malverne and go to Montauk and back in one day. “I’m hoping it works out,” said Pannullo, who’s trying to arrange it for August.
“I’m so lucky he walked into our life,” Monteforte said, adding that she was inspired by his example. “When I can get a handle on … my daughter’s health, I would love to be the one [to] give back and help.”