Coney Island

Cancer awareness advocates vow to keep putting pressure on Empire State Building

Coney Island Parachute Jump to pay tribute to kids

August 18, 2014 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Advocates for children with cancer scored a major victory when the owners of the Parachute Jump, the famous Coney Island landmark, agreed to a request to light the tower in gold in tribute to kids with cancer next month. It’s part of the Gold World Project, an international effort started by Tony Stoddard, a New Hampshire resident, to raise awareness of pediatric cancer by having the lights of famous landmarks across the globe bathed in gold in September for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Stoddard launched the drive in memory of his five-year-old son Cole, who died of cancer.

But while they’re happy to get a golden Parachute Jump, advocates also said they’re not giving up their fight to convince the owners of the Empire State Building to light that iconic skyscraper in gold, too.

“No way we’re giving up. We keep fighting. We fight for our kids,” one woman, whose son has cancer told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday.

To date, the Empire State Building’s owners have refused to budge from their stand.

Outraged by the Empire State Building controversy, Councilmember Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) convinced Zamperla, which owns the Parachute Jump, to light the iconic structure gold. Treyger contacted Valerio Ferrari of Central Amusements International, which is the Zamperla subsidiary that operates its Coney Island attractions. As a result, a special ceremony will take place at the Parachute Jump on Friday, Sept. 5, at 8 p.m. The Parachute Jump will be lit in gold for a week, according to Treyger.

The Parachute Jump is located between Surf Avenue, the Riegelmann Boardwalk, West 16th Street and West 19th Street.

“I really was surprised and disappointed by the Empire State Building’s denial of this important request on behalf of all families fighting childhood cancer. In the end, I am proud that we were able to turn this into a positive and find a way to bring awareness to this critical issue,” Treyger said. “We all know that Brooklyn, and not Midtown, is now the center of New York City, so it is great that Coney Island and its famous Parachute Jump will be part of The Gold World Project.” 

Among the first people Treyger contacted about his Parachute Jump plan was Camille Orrichio Loccisano, the founder of the Francesco Loccisano Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Bay Ridge that assists families of children with cancer.

The foundation is named in memory of Orrichio Loccisano’s son, Francesco “Frankie” Loccisano, who died of cancer in 2007 at the age of 17. The foundation is also known by the name “Frankie’s Mission.”

“We at Frankie’s Mission are thrilled to have the world famous Coney Island Parachute Jump sending their care and love to the childhood cancer community by lighting gold for a week in September. I know my son Frankie is smiling down as we all valiantly work together in our quest to reach true cures. We also appreciate the efforts of Zamperla and Councilman Treyger for taking real action in raising awareness for this cause,” Orrichio Loccisano said.

Matt Kabel, a Brooklyn parent whose 21-month-old daughter Sally is fighting a rare form of leukemia, said he is pleased and grateful for the Parachute Jump lighting.

“Even though the Empire State Building turned down and treated our kids without the respect they deserve, we’re excited that many have taken up the cause in response simply because it is the right thing to do. My daughter Sally is a sixth generation Brooklyn resident, so it is great that our home borough has her back and supports all of the children fighting cancer,” he said.

Treyger has invited representatives of childhood cancer advocacy organizations to take part in the Sept. 5 lighting ceremony.

Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) said he is puzzled as to why the Empire State Building is refusing to go gold for kids with cancer.

“If we can light up the Empire State Building for Germany’s World Cup semi-finals victory, the ‘Lion King’ or a Swedish electronic dance music trio, then surely we can light the tower gold to help raise awareness and inspire action for childhood cancer initiatives,” he said.

The building’s official website outlines the lighting criteria.

“The Empire State Building does not grant lightings for personal events such as birthdays, anniversaries, or weddings; commercial events; political campaigns; religious figures or events,” the message reads.

In an article published Aug. 14, the New York Daily News quoted a spokesman  for the Empire State Building as saying that the childhood cancer request could not be accommodated because of the high volume of requests it receives for special lights on the building for the 365 nights there are in a year.

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