Sandy survivors move to Marco and meet Bedtime Bundles

Sandy survivors move to Marco and meet Bedtime Bundles

By Julia Barnett 

Thomas checks his pillowcase while Matthewplays with a found toy and James tries to find Waldo.

Thomas checks his pillowcase while Matthew
plays with a found toy and James tries to find Waldo.

When the unexpected happens and disaster strikes, what do you do? What can you do, really, except gather your family, pick up the pieces, and find some help from a caring hand and a friendly face.

The aftermath of the storm that struck the Northeast the week before Halloween, given the name ‘Sandy,’ involved such disaster and assistance. For some, the damage done to their homes and lives was relatively manageable. For others, the storm devastated their world.

Rita Martin was in the latter group when the storm demolished her New York home. The daughter of former New York fire chief Peter Hayden, she was relieved to have the option of moving herself and her family into his Marco Island home with what belongings they’d managed to save.

While Rita and her seven children traveled down with her mother-in-law, her father traveled up to help the relief efforts ongoing in New York, including those of his other children. Five of Rita’s kids have been enrolled into Tommie Barfield Elementary School.

No strangers to hurricanes and the destruction they inflict, the Marco Island community has welcomed Rita and her family with open arms full of support. The Fire Foundation, for example, gave the family money for food and other immediate necessities. And Dennis Pidherny and Dianna Dohm of Bedtime Bundles made the decision to provide Rita’s children with some of the necessities of childhood—winter clothes, some toys, and books.

Rita, Thomas, James, and Matthew pick out some sweatshirts for winter. PHOTOS BY JULIA BARNETT

Rita, Thomas, James, and Matthew pick out some sweatshirts for winter. PHOTOS BY JULIA BARNETT

So on Thursday, November 27, Dianna, Dennis, and Dennis’ wife Joan, invited Rita and her children—John, Katie, James, Matthew, Thomas, Hayden and Taryn, ages 10, 9, 8, 6, 5, 2, and 16 months, respectively—to the Bedtime Bundles office in Sunset Plaza, after school, of course. There, they could choose what they needed without having to worry about cost.

Founded by Karen Saeks, Bedtime Bundles is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing the basic necessities to migrant children, though Executive Director Dennis Pidherny says that the company is hoping to expand to helping any child in need. They receive support from local businesses and congregations, as well as individuals and fundraisers, like the Mutts & Martinis Yappy Hour, sponsored by CJ’s on the Bay.

Bedtime Bundles provides “bundles” to children in need. These bundles, often a pillowcase, contain necessities like blankets, towels, clothes, toothbrushes, and a toy and book. Simple things to us are amazing gifts in the eyes of a child in need, and Bedtime Bundles is determined to provide these gifts.

Rita and three of her kids—James, Matthew, and Thomas—certainly appreciated that determination and dedication as they wandered around the office, filling their own pillowcases with sweatshirts, socks, and some toys. The three boys eagerly picked out books, and James even sat down on the floor to read one, giving his mother cause to smile amidst picking out clothes for her daughter. Thus equipped for the coming days, the Martin family returned to their new home, with new hope and the knowledge that there will always be a helping hand to life their spirits and make them feel at home. Rita, kids—welcome home.

For more information on Bedtime Bundles, what they do, and how to help, visit

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