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Meet Evelyn Iocolano of Lollipop Theater Network

Today we’d like to introduce you to Evelyn Iocolano.

Hi Evelyn, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
In 2001, while in NYC, I was introduced to Janis Fischer who had the wonderful idea to bring movies – currently in theaters – to hospitalized children. Together with Josh Gaspero, we put together a non-profit organization to do just that and called it Lollipop Theater Network.

While working with Craig Ferguson on a film he was starring in and directing, I introduced the idea to movie studio executives who agreed to test it out.

Since then, LOLLIPOP has screened hundreds of films and TV shows and created much more programming to entertain and lift the spirits of pediatric patients and their families. They are dealing with so many challenges and missing out on much of their childhood and we felt they should at least be able to see long anticipated movies. We believe that hope and joy really help the healing process.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
No, it has not been a smooth road. There have been numerous challenges along the way. Some studio executives understandably needed more convincing. Piracy is a huge issue for the movie industry and we needed to prove to them that we could maintain the security of their films. Seeing how excited the kids became when they found out they were about to see an “in-theaters only” film is what motivated me to figure out a way through any obstacles.

And fundraising is always a challenge. There are so many worthwhile charities for donors to support and finding a way to stand out in the crowd can be difficult.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
This year is Lollipop Theater Network’s 20th Anniversary. We began with a screening of STAR WARS: ATTACK OF THE CLONES on June 2, 2002 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NYC.

Our mission began with bringing movies – currently in theaters – to children confined to hospitals due to chronic or life-threatening illness. We roll out the red carpet, hand out movie tickets and swag and sometimes even have the film’s cast join us in a visit. You can imagine how much the kids love that! Parents too!

In 2020, when hospital Covid-19 restrictions prohibited us from making in-person visits, we quickly added an online, interactive series that tripled our reach and includes:

– STORY TIME, an online, interactive program where guest celebrities read children’s books and then participate in a Q&A with the kids

– GET CREATIVE, where animation artists teach the kids how to draw their favorite characters

– INVITE ONLY, which can be a safari, a magic show, Bingo, or even a virtual visit with the cast of the kids’ favorite new movie

– THE SUPERHERO PROJECT, where top designers from the Costume Designers Guild build one-of-a-kind superhero costumes for pediatric patients.

All of the above serves to provide children, who are facing incredible challenges and feeling uncertain, afraid and isolated, with a moment of normalcy and a special, lasting memory.

LOLLIPOP is successful only because of the wonderful people who support us with their time, creativity and donations. I can only hope that more people will be made aware of our organization and support our efforts so we can continue to spread this joy for years to come.

In May, we’ll be revealing our 2020 Superheroes at a virtual event. More info on our website soon!

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
At the beginning of the pandemic, almost everyone was searching for the best shows to watch, books to read, recipes to make, anything to distract them from the fear, isolation and uncertainty we were all feeling. These are the exact things these kids feel – ALL THE TIME. The crisis helped me make people have a better understanding of what we at LOLLIPOP strive to do – provide that distraction, entertainment, inspiration to help them get through the difficult times.

I also learned that:

– Many things are possible if you have passion and stay focused.

– Everyone, including the celebrities who support us, needs to connect and feel that they can be of service.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Headshot: Brandin Shaeffer Both Superhero photo: Eric Charbonneau

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