A charity that creates a best day ever for terminally ill children and their families inspired more than 500 people to come to a fundraiser Sunday at the North Side Improvement League, 633 Mill St.
Mardi for Maddie, a Mardi Gras-themed event put on by the Maddies Mark Foundation, featured childrens games with goldfish as prizes and autographs from Spider-Man.
I expected a fair number of people, but I didnt want to get my hopes up, said Matthew R. Musto, vice president of Maddies Mark.
While Mr. Musto said he was not surprised that the event was successful, he was shocked by how many people turned out. The parking lot was packed, and he had to have someone run out to buy more goldfish for prizes.
The Albany-based charity is named for Madeline E. Musto, late daughter of Mr. Musto and his wife, Erin.
Three months before 5-year-old Maddie died last February from a rare brain tumor, the family visited relatives in the north country and managed to enjoy a respite from Maddies illness. Upon sitting down to eat at a restaurant in Lewis County, Maddie told her parents that it had been the best day ever.
Those words prompted Mr. and Mrs. Musto to give terminally ill children a reason to smile by giving them one perfect day whether it is at the zoo, at a fair or at any other family-friendly event.
The foundation also has paid to build a playground at Madelines elementary school outside Albany and hopes to build another in Carthage.
At the carnival in Watertown on Sunday, hundreds of children were smiling, running around and begging their parents to let them play just one more game.
We wanted to support Maddie and her family, said Jessica A. Percy, Black River.
She brought her 4-year-old son, Dillon G. Granger, to the event.
I think its great, actually, Ms. Percy said. All the kids have so much to do.
For $2 admission per person or $10 for a family, children and their parents received Mardi Gras beads and two tokens to play games, and could sign up for door prizes.
At Saturdays spaghetti dinner, Mr. Musto said, about 160 people were served. On that night alone, the charity raised $1,000.
One of the event organizers, family friend Michele L. Grobe, Adams Center, said about 50 volunteers manned the event.
The event committee planned the fundraiser over the course of two months.
The Mustos are well-known in the area, Mrs. Grobe said. The foundation does amazing things.
Mr. Musto said Mardi for Maddie will be an annual fundraiser in February or March, while the weather is gloomy.
We want to make Watertown a focus point for Maddies Mark, Mr. Musto said.
This is Madelines home. This was where her family and friends were.