Tag Archives: Andrew Accardi

Caroline Accardi: A COVID Nurse’s Story

Caroline Accardi’s father Frank is an ophthalmologist. At the start of his career he saw physicians refusing to treat HIV patients, because they feared the deadly disease.

“Doctors take an oath to help everyone,” he told his daughter.

That made a big impression on her. Her mother Ellen was a role model too. A cardiac ICU nurse by training, she now sells heart defibrillators and teaches CPR.

Caroline’s younger brother Andrew battled neuroblastoma for 15 years. She helped care for him. When he died in 2013 — just 20 years old — her goal of serving in the medical profession was cemented.

Caroline Accardi, in her scrubs.

After graduating from Staples High School in 2010 and James Madison University 4 years later, Caroline earned a nursing degree. Since 2016 she’s been part of the post-anesthetic care unit at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery.

She’s in the recovery room with patients after hip and knee replacements, and spinal surgery. When Governor Cuomo halted all non-essential medical procedures in mid-March, her hospital dropped from 60 to 80 cases a day, to 5 to 15. (Those were emergencies, like broken hips.)

For 2 weeks, Caroline had little to do. She saw so many other nurses doing so much. “It was such a helpless feeling,” she recalls.

The Hospital for Special Surgery is connected by a bridge to New York Presbyterian. When that facility was flooded with coronavirus patients, those who were not infected were moved to Caroline’s hospital. But so many people got sick, the Hospital for Special Surgery soon took them too.

Her hospital turned 9 operating rooms into makeshift ICUs. The strategy was to contain the virus in those special units.

Caroline Accardi at work.

Quickly, she says, “we went from taking care of healthy, recovering patients, to treating very, very sick people.”

She relied on training from nursing school she had not had to use before. “The tasks were the same, but the critical thinking was different,” she explains. “My brain had to make a total shift in how I looked at things.”

The Hospital for Special Surgery treated COVID patients throughout April. “We were there for hours at a time,” Caroline says. “The teamwork was incredible.”

As a private hospital, they were fortunate to have plenty of PPE on hand. Caroline work a gown over her scrubs; an N95 mask, with a regular mask over that; 2 hairnets; an enormous face shield, and 2 pairs of gloves. She felt “very protected.”

Despite all her PPE, Caroline Accardi added a personal touch.

Yet the days were long, and physically and emotionally draining. At one point there were 20 patients in ICU. At least one or two died every day.

“People were on ventilators so much longer than usual,” Caroline says. “And no families could visit. We had to explain over the phone how sick their loved ones were. They had to make life-or-death decisions without being there.

“As nurses, we want people to die with dignity. Families had to say goodbye to people they knew would die alone.”

Many patients had underlying health conditions. Some did not. And some were in their 30s and 40s.

When the last COVID patient left on April 30, Caroline saw “the light at the end of the tunnel.” Neighboring hospitals too were less overwhelmed.

“What everyone is doing — all the social distancing and following guidelines — is working,” she notes.

Still, elective surgeries will not be scheduled until everyone feels safe.

The Hospital for Special Surgery has taken care of its patients — and staff. Personnel received 2 bonuses, and can take days off with 80% pay if there are no cases.

Of course, it will take a long time to return to whatever the new “normal” is.

But when we’re there, Caroline Accardi will be there doing exactly what she always dreamed of doing, and has always done: helping others.

“Andrew’s Army”: Remarkable Documentary Now Available Here

Last weekend, I joined a capacity crowd at Town Hall. We had the honor of watching “Andrew’s Army.”

Andrew Accardi

The 31-minute documentary traced the life and death of Andrew Accardi. The Westport native battled neuroblastoma — a very rare childhood cancer — from age 5 until his death 15 years later.

He was a Staples High School golfer, a popular young man with many friends, and a fighter whose big heart and great spirit inspired all who met him.

The film was a labor of love by Sam Bender, a 2011 Staples classmate and longtime friend. He captured Andrew’s personality and character — and also shined a light on the staff at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, who treated  him so long, and loved him so much.

“Andrew’s Army” is not just the title. It’s the name of Andrew’s many admirers — of all ages — who have raised over $1 million for neuroblastoma research.

Hopefully, the documentary will spur even more donations. It’s a remarkable video, one that deserves an audience far beyond Westport.

It’s available now on Facebook and Vimeo.

And right here, on “06880.”


The tagline of “06880” is “Where Westport meets the world.” So here’s my request:

If you’re reading this, and have any connections or ideas on how to distribute this video far and wide, please click “Comments” below. Or email me privately: dwoog@optonline.net.

“Andrew’s Army” must keep marching on.

“Andrew’s Army”: Video Documents A Life Well Lived

From the time he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma — a very rare childhood cancer — at age 5, until his death 15 years later, Andrew Accardi battled hard.

He was a valued member of the Staples High School golf team. He vowed to walk across the stage on Graduation Day, 2011 — and did. He amassed a legion of friends and admirers, with his big heart and even bigger spirit.

Andrew Accardi

Andrew died on October 31, 2013. His friends — in Westport and at Villanova University, where he was a finance and marketing major — and family members, who called themselves “Andrew’s Army,” had already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for neuroblastoma research.

In the 6 years since, they’ve done even more.

The latest: On Saturday, October 26 (6:30 p.m., Town Hall), there’s a special screening of a documentary, “Andrew’s Army.” A reception at Tavern on Main follows.

It was a labor of love by Sam Bender, a longtime classmate and friend. The talented filmmaker created it as his senior thesis at Emerson College. (At Staples, he earned renown as the first videographer for the boys soccer team.)

Sam Bender (left) and Andrew Accardi, in high school.

The 30-minute film touches on the personal and private parts of Andrew’s life. He kept quiet about his health struggles. He was adamant about being treated “normally” by his peers.

Andrew never asked for sympathy or preferential treatment; he only wanted to live his life to the fullest. The documentary shows how hard his fight was — and how hard he fought.

Sam interviewed Andrew’s family, Westport and college friends, the Villanova president, and doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia who treated him so long and loved him so much.

It’s an inspiring story. Andrew’s Army marches on!

(Click here for tickets to the October 26 film screening at Town Hall, and reception at Tavern on Main. All proceeds go to neuroblastoma research at Children’s Hospital. You can also donate on Venmo: @andrewsarmy.)

Andrew’s Army Marches On — To Mini-Golf

Seven years ago, Andrew Accardi had a dream. The 13-year-old wanted to create a foundation to raise money for neuroblastoma.

Andrew had a very personal dog in that fight. He’d been living with the pediatric cancer — for which there is no known cure — for 8 years already.

Andrew Accardi, doing what he loved.

Andrew Accardi, doing what he loved.

He battled it for 7 more, before succumbing last October. Before he died, though, he and his many friends raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cause. Much of it came from golf-related events. Andrew was a 4-year member of the Staples team.

Andrew is gone, but his friends — “Andrew’s Army” — still raise money. Andrew’s legacy lives on.

The 1st annual Andrew’s Army Miniature Golf Classic is set for this Sunday (July 27, 4-7 p., Norwalk Cove Marina). The admission price of $20 — payable there — includes a round of mini-golf, food, soft drinks, a raffle and more.

“And more” includes the “36 Challenge.” Two years ago, Andrew shot a fantastic 36 on the course. If you think you can match that, put your money on the line. Pledge to donate an amount of your choice for every stroke over 36. The lowest score by anyone undertaking the challenge can win 2 NY Ranger tickets for next season.

But wait! There’s more! Everyone participating in the “36 Challenge” will also receive a special raffle ticket for each hole-in-one. They’re part of the grand prize item, from Saugatuck Sweets: a basket of candy, plus a coupon for 1 free double-scoop ice cream every week for a year.

How great is Andrew’s Army? Well, this Miniature Golf Classic should vault their fundraising over the $1 million mark.


Staples Golfers Remember Andrew Accardi

Andrew Accardi died last October. A finance and marketing major at Villanova University, he was just 20 years old. For 15 years he’d fought neuroblastoma, a brutal childhood cancer.

Andrew Accardi, doing what he loved.

Andrew Accardi, doing what he loved.

Andrew had been a beloved and important member of the Staples golf team. They — and other friends — formed Andrew’s Army, raising (with him) hundreds of thousands of dollars for research into the disease.

Andrew’s friends and teammates are honoring him in a more personal way, too.

Yesterday, they unveiled a bench and plaque. It’s located near the halfway house at Longshore — Staples’ home course — overlooking the 9th green, and down the fairway.

The plaque includes 3 words — “selfless, courageous, virtuous” — that, according to coach Tom Owen, epitomize Andrew.

Andrew Accardi's plaque and bench.

Andrew Accardi’s plaque and bench. (Photos/Sam Bender)

Owen and assistant coach Bill Walsh picked the spot for 2 reasons.

It is where they watched Andrew bravely finish a round in frigid weather. He refused to leave the course until he was done.

Now, it will be the spot where Staples and their opponents meet at the end of each match to total their scores.

Andrew’s father spoke yesterday, at the dedication.

“If I’m feeling selfish, afraid or less virtuous, I will sit here and have some peace,” Dr. Frank Accardi said.

“Knowing our son and brother, your friend and teammate, was loved and remembered by the people is so important. His spirit will help us get through tough times.”


Mourning With The Class Of 2011

The death of Michael Goodgame last Friday was the latest tragedy for Staples High School’s Class of 2011.

In less than a year, they’ve lost 3 classmates: Michael, Andrew Accardi and Ali Mirza.

Staples principal John Dodig shares the pain of the class that graduated less than 3 years ago. Today, he wrote this note to the class of ’11. He has no direct way of contacting those 1800 young people, but perhaps by social media — and “06880” — his words will reach them. And reach others also, in other Staples classes, who have lost friends and loved ones, far too soon.

Dear members of the Class of 2011:

Most of you know that Michael Goodgame was killed in a terrible auto accident near his college. Terrible weather created hazardous road conditions, resulting in an accident that took Michael’s life, and the lives of 2 friends and classmates.

Andrew Accardi

Andrew Accardi

I was reminded that 2 other members of your class have passed away since graduating from Staples: Ali Mirza and Andrew Accardi. Even to someone like me, who has spent 43 years working with teenagers in both urban and suburban high schools, losing this many young people from one class is extraordinary.

I hope that one of the things about your experience at Staples that you will continue to remember is our emphasis on being kind to one another. Although I know I cannot mandate kindness and acceptance of difference, I have made an effort to make my beliefs known whenever I meet with groups of students, and almost every time I write to parents. One of the hallmarks of our school is that most students can spend 4 years here, find themselves, perhaps find and/or nurture a passion for something, and navigate high school life relatively unscathed. Nothing is perfect, but I continue to marvel at Staples students who tell me that they enjoy being here.

Ali Mirza

Ali Mirza

Michael, Andrew and Ali were all very different. They are all remembered, however, for the same thing by the adults in our building. They were all kind, caring, giving young men who contributed in their own way to the positive school environment I described above. I have no answer to those who ask me “why” they died. If asked, I can answer the question “what did they contribute to Staples?” That is what I focus upon when I think of these 3 young men.

I am writing to you because I felt that you may need to know that the adults in your high school remember you and share your pain and loss. There is nothing I can say that will make you feel any better. Losing a friend and member of this class is painful. It simply has to be processed until it no longer occupies your thoughts every waking moment. Eventually, you will file the feeling and memories in a place in your brain where you can retrieve them at will. With social media and your yearbook you will always remember each young man’s face, his smile, what he was involved at school, and what his dreams were. Relish those memories, and share them with others when appropriate.

I am truly sorry that you have to bear this pain and sadness. I want you to know that we are thinking of you.

Michael Goodgame

Michael Goodgame

Joining Andrew’s Army

When Andrew Accardi died on October 31, legions of family members, friends and teammates mourned.

The 20-year-old Villanova University finance and marketing major — and 4-year golfer at Staples — lost his 15-year battle with neuorblastoma, a brutal childhood cancer.

Andrew Accardi

Andrew Accardi

Over several years — led by Andrew — a group called Andrew’s Army raised over $350,000 for neuroblastoma research at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, where he was treated so well. The money has aided breakthroughs in fighting the deadly disease.

Now — despite losing their leader — Andrew’s Army has pledged to do more.

During the coming months, they’ll organize a series of fundraisers for neuroblastoma and other pediatric cancers.

This morning, Andrew’s Army launched a Facebook page. In its first 8 hours, it earned over 800 likes.

The page is the first step toward gathering an online following. That will make it easy to spread the word about upcoming events.

To add your name, click on www.facebook.com/FightForAccardi. To donate right now, click here.

Help Andrew’s Army march on.

Services Set For Andrew Accardi

A Mass of Christian Burial to celebrate the life of Andrew Accardi — the 20-year-old who lost a long battle with cancer this week — is set for Wednesday (November 6, 10 a.m.) at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 149 South Pine Creek Road, Fairfield. Interment will be private.

In lieu of flowers, the Accardi family suggests a donation in Andrew’s memory to “Andrew’s Army,” in support of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (Maura Mitarotondo, 64 Shorefront Park, Norwalk, CT 06854).

To send online condolences, click here.

Andrew Accardi

Andrew Accardi

Remembering Andrew Accardi

In mid-March 2008, a couple dozen boys were trying out for the Staples golf team. The wind chill was 20 degrees, and coach Tom Owen told them that if they wished, they could go inside. He would not hold it against them.

A 9th grader shook uncontrollably from the cold. But he refused to quit.

“I want to finish,” Andrew Accardi told Owen.

Despite his heart, his scores were not good enough to make the very talented squad. But Owen loved Andrew’s attitude, and asked him to be the team manager.

Andrew battled more than wind and cold that day. Since age 5 — nearly 10 years earlier — he’d been fighting neuroblastoma, a brutal childhood cancer.

Andrew Accardi, doing what he loved.

Andrew Accardi, doing what he loved.

“Andrew never wanted sympathy or pity,” Owen says. “He never let on how much he was suffering. He just wanted a normal high school life.”

His golf teammates treated him exactly that way. They befriended him, joked with him, teased him.

The next year — as a sophomore — Andrew made the team. Despite frequent trips to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, he was a Staples golfer for the rest of high school.

He, Owen, and many friends and family members worked together on fundraisers for the hospital, to aid in neuroblastoma research. Over 4 years, “Andrew’s Army” raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.

After graduating in 2011, Andrew attended Villanova University, as a finance and marketing major. Just as at Staples, he quickly gained many friends and admirers.

This morning, Andrew lost his 15-year fight. He was 20 years old.

“I respect him greatly, for everything he did,” Owen says with emotion. “He inspired so many people. I hope kids who knew him learn never to take for granted what they have.”

Staples principal John Dodig agrees.

Andrew Accardi

Andrew Accardi

“I remember this small boy with a knit cap on. Sometimes he was here, and for weeks he was not. Each time he reappeared, students and adults welcomed him back. He walked around the building with a smile on his face.

“His biggest goal at that point in his life was to walk across the stage at graduation. Every teacher, administrator, and support person was determined to help him accomplish his goal.”

Andrew did walk across the stage. Dodig shook his hand. James Farnen, his assistant principal for 4 years, gave him a huge hug.

Andrew Felman — the current Staples golf captain — was a freshman when Andrew Accardi was a senior. When he heard the news this morning, the captain told Owen he wants the team to wear Andrew’s initials on their golf shirts this year.

What a great tribute. It will keep Andrew Accardi so close to their hearts.