Meet Josephine

High on a rooftop, there is a place where pediatric patients can simply be children at play. Josephine’s Garden, in the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center, was inspired and designed by a vibrant and creative child who loved and longed for the outdoors. “Josephine’s Garden keeps Josephine’s memory alive,” says Heidi Hartung-Rispoli, an artist who designed the garden with her daughter and now works on behalf of children with cancer to honor her.

“Josephine’s Garden keeps Josephine’s memory alive."

- Heidi Hartung-Rispoli

In the garden, there are overlapping circles of orange, blue and brown representing fire, water and earth – the elements of life – and several planting beds. There are hand-drawn butterflies and flowers, taken directly from Josephine’s kindergarten book. Josephine had just started first grade when she was diagnosed with a rare and malignant brain tumor. She was treated at Hackensack University Medical Center for more than 250 days.

“Her room became our little home,” Heidi recalls. “The doctors were great and attentive and the nurses showed so much compassion and care.”

Heidi’s focus now is on promoting expansion of the Josephine Elle Hartung-Rispoli Research Lab, located on the pediatric inpatient floor where children enrolled in research studies are treated. She and her husband, Francis Rispoli, raised funds to create the lab and garden that bear their daughter’s name.

“My eyes were opened and I have knowledge that I wish I didn’t have,” Heidi explains. “If I don’t share my knowledge and utilize my talents to make a change, then I’m doing a disservice to Josephine and all kids with cancer.”

To donate directly to Josephine’s Garden, please click here.


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