Eleven years ago, a doctor at Coney Island Hospital (2601 Ocean Parkway) decided to do more than heal his patients, he wanted to ensure they had full stomachs on Thanksgiving eve. So Dr. Warren Seigel, chairman of the hospital’s pediatrics department and director of adolescent medicine, kicked off an annual tradition of raising money to raffle off turkeys and halal chickens to his patients in need.
Seigel and his team raised enough money this year to distribute 102 turkeys and halal chickens before the holiday. Most of the funds came from employees at the hospital and support from Metroplus.
The tradition began 11 years ago when Seigel was surprised to find that many of his patients would not have a traditional holiday turkey. At first he thought it was a cultural difference – the hospital’s patience cover the gamut of Brooklyn’s diversity – but later learned that many couldn’t afford the holiday fowl.
Seigel, though, didn’t want to simply hold a turkey giveaway for needy patients.
“We were very sensitive to the fact that people don’t want to receive a handout,” he said. So he turned it into an event with movies, face painting and other entertainment for his adolescent patients, and held a free raffle for the turkeys and chickens as part of the event. “So it’s not like we just gave them something; they won something,” he said.
No one left the event empty-handed, he noted, saying that toys and treats were also distributed.
Although the event was born 11 years ago, this was only the 10th time they did it. Superstorm Sandy squashed the plans last year.
“When Sandy hit we had no electricity. We had no way to do this. We couldn’t even pick up the turkeys because there was no gas in our cars. It made us feel bad because it was the time when people needed it the most,” Seigel recalled.
But the return of the tradition, and the enormous amount they managed to distribute this year, signaled a welcome return to normalcy.
“It’s just wonderful. It makes [our patients] feel so wonderful and it reminds all of us how lucky we are,” Seigel said.