PROVIDENCE – It takes just sixty seconds, costs virtually nothing, and it can mean a lot to a sick child staying at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
Residents from North Smithfield gathered in Providence Sunday night for Good Night Lights, a gesture of support for patients at the hospital that’s become a treasured Rhode Island tradition over the past three years.
Every night at exactly 8:30 p.m., supporters gather at the entrance to Collier Point Park to blink lights at kids, who watch from the windows of their rooms above.
And participants showed up in force for North Smithfield Night, a special Good Night Lights held in the memory of Anna Kitada.
Kitada was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2015 and during her three-year battle with the disease, the North Smithfield community came together at events and fundraisers in support of her and her family.
Kitada lost her battle with cancer in 2018. But residents soon found themselves gathering to raise funds for another local family in need, and soon after, Kenny’s Coalition was born.
“We realized that fundraisers were more than just events to help families pay their medical bills. They are rallies for friends who were facing their toughest life challenge,” notes a message on the organization’s history. “They are a way for people- young and old- to show their support and love for others. They are a place for communities to come together and use their talents, resources, and experiences to make a difference in the journey of one family.”
Now, the nonprofit specializes in event planning and fundraising for people with medical needs in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
On Sunday, the coalition turned its attention to children at Hasbro, organizing a gathering in Kitada’s memory.
It was a fitting tribute to a young lady who, according to the founder of Good Night Lights, helped to shape the project in its early days.
The tradition of saying goodnight to the children at the hospital began with Steve Brosnihan, a cartoonist at Hasbro who would flash the lights on his bicycle to say goodnight after an evening visiting with children.
“I believe a community of light can be created in Providence, sharing sixty seconds of good will every day without monetary expense or burdensome effort,” wrote Brosnihan. “The project delivers a disproportionate amount of reward for participants when they realize that by simply blinking a light for one minute they can make a hospitalized child feel better.”
Providence businesses soon began participating in the project, blinking their lights in support of the kids.
Now, the city itself seems to blink in support, from the LEDs atop the science labs at Brown University, to the signals on tugboats passing by. Atop 100 Westminster St,, a skyscraper uses an animated LED screen in window to spell out “Good Night Hasbro,” every night.
Outside communities have also gotten involved, holding events to increase participation in the nightly ritual.
“These community displays are a lot of fun with lots of smiles, laughs and, lately, singing involved,” noted Brosnihan.
North Smithfield Night was no exception, with dozens of residents and first responders showing up in masse. Police car flashers blinked from participating vehicles, and dozens of residents waved at the kids from the street below. There were carols, and even a visit from Santa.
“Fantastic display last night by Kenny’s Coalition and friends from the North Smithfield community honoring the spirit of Anna Kitada, a great friend of Good Night Lights who helped shape the project in its early days,” Brosnihan said. “The ‘thank you’ blinks from the hospital made it clear that the mission was accomplished.”