Glen Cove resident James Pascucci, 53, received a birthday celebration fit for a king last Sunday, and it was a day he said he would never forget.
After meeting in the Connolly Elementary School parking lot, the Glen Cove Volunteer Fire Department and the Police Department, sirens blaring, led what seemed like an endless stream of cars down Smith Street, their passengers bearing gifts for Pascucci, who has Down syndrome. As he waved from his front yard, he wiped away tears of joy.
“I still have chills from it,” Pam Giorgi, Pascucci’s older sister, said afterward. “I had no idea it would get to this level. I mean, I’m still shocked by it. I can’t wait to watch the videos. To see a turnout like this, it was amazing.”
Just six months ago, many of the participants would have been strangers to Pascucci. What brought them all together was a Facebook group called “Wine Fairies of Glen Cove, Glen Head, Sea Cliff, GWL and Locust Valley.”
Breanna Cruz, 24, of Glen, and her mother, Laura Cruz, started the group in May after they noticed that, because of their distance from other communities, there were few North Shore members of Long Island “wine fairy” groups, in which women exchange addresses and drop off gifts, usually including wine, at one another’s doorsteps.
Since the Cruzes founded the group, approximately 1,000 people have joined, and many friendships have blossomed, including one among Kim Tognelli Heavey, Giorgi and Pascucci.
“I owe it all to Kim, because from the second James met her, he talked about the parade, and she made it happen,” Giorgi said of Tognelli Heavey, who is also a member of the “Car parade birthday and celebrations drive by’s – Long Island North Shore” Facebook group, which helped organize the parade.
Because he is the only male “wine fairy” in the North Shore group, Pascucci is often referred to as “King James” or the “King of the Wine Fairies.” Members of the group were delighted by how he rode his bike to deliver gifts to their doors, wearing a pair of fairy wings.
“He brightens your day,” Tognelli Heavey said. “He puts smiles on your faces. He just told me that he loved me, and he means it.”
She added that Pascucci remembers everything that’s done for him and every gift he gets from the wine fairies. “He’s just a beautiful person inside and out.”
Another friend, Buffy MeMe Peterson, who helped hand out goody bags filled with treats and raffle tickets for prizes from local businesses, along with pink and blue cupcakes during the parade, said that Pascucci’s smile has captured her and many others’ hearts. “When he comes to bring you gifts and take pictures with you, it’s priceless,” she said.
“[The parade] is gorgeous,” MeMe Peterson added. “I love the way all the wine fairies come out and get together for something like this. I also want to thank Glen Cove Fire Department and the Glen Cove Police Department for taking part. It brought tears to his eyes and our eyes. It’s wonderful.”
After the parade, many returned to Pascucci’s house for picture-taking and the singing of “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood from Glen Cove Councilman Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews. On behalf of his family, Stevenson-Mathews also presented a commemorative “thank you” coin to Pascucci.
“This certainly demonstrates what people from Glen Cove are made of,” Stevenson-Mathews said. “What [James] has done in this group, as ‘King of the Fairies,’ is that he has gone from household to household, from person to person, and has truly shared his unique gifts and his unique kindness and has made sure he has touched people’s lives when they’ve been in great need.”
The Cruzes, surrounded by laughter and gifts, reflected on why they created the North Shore wine fairies group to begin with: to bring brightness to the community during a difficult time. They were proud, they said, that such an event, and the friendships that have flourished, came out of a Facebook group. “They are amazing women,” Laura Cruz said.
“Someone like James deserves this,” Breanna Cruz said. “So the fact that the fairy group helped put this together is awesome.”
The best part, Giorgi said, was that the day before his birthday, which is Oct. 19, her brother got to do what he loves most — spend time with “the girls.” “He loves the girls,” she said. “He loves to be with them. He’s just amazing like that.”