Nobody had to tell John and Brenda Fareri that losing a child would be the hardest thing they’d have to endure in their lives.
Their 13-year-old daughter, Maria, died in 1995 after she was bitten by a bat and contracted rabies. The couple was devastated, but they decided that something positive would come from the tragedy. Guided by Maria’s spirit, they decided to found the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Westchester, New York.
“The first night of her wake, her eighth grade teacher came and said that she had made a special wish for the health and well-being of all the children in the world,” Ms. Fareri said during a telephone interview last Wednesday, which happened to be the day before the anniversary of her daughter’s death. “She was telling us what to do with her life. That’s how we decided to make a hospital.”
The former nurse and her real estate developer/master electrician husband, who live in Greenwich, Connecticut, had a daunting task ahead of them, but they were determined to create a less institutional, more hospitable place for children and their families to be treated during hospital stays. With the grassroots support of 20,000 community members, their dream came true when the hospital opened its doors in 2004.
“We call the hospital the nicest place you’d never want to have to go,” Mr. Fareri has said in interviews.
The state-of-the-art facility, built to look like a castle on the outside and feel like a hotel on the inside—complete with a walk-in aquarium, a children’s library, playrooms, computer rooms a doll house exhibit and artwork by Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and Edward Ruscha—now serves 20,000 children a year. The Fareris’s efforts caught the attention of a filmmaker, who tells their story in “Louder Than Words.”
The feature film—starring David Duchovny, Hope Davis, Timothy Hutton and Olivia Steele Falconer—will screen as a Spotlight Film at the 21st annual Hamptons International Film Festival on Friday, October 11, and again on Saturday, October 12.
Time, and the positive outcome of Maria’s wishes, have helped to heal the wounds, but Ms. Fareri said that she still grieves the loss of her outgoing, smart and vivacious daughter, whose life goals included helping others and becoming a star. Maria would be thrilled to know that her legacy lives on through the hospital and the movie though, her mother said.
“I think number one is that something good can come out of something tragic; that’s what’s most important to us as a family,” she said. “It was on her [Maria’s] timeline, so she’s a star now. She’d probably be very proud. It’s very cool. We’re really touched.”
“Louder Than Words” will screen on Friday, October 11, at 6 p.m. at UA East Hampton and on Saturday, October 12, at 3:15 p.m. at Southampton Regal Bay Cinemas as part of the Hamptons International Film Festival. For additional information, visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.