Each night at 8:30 p.m., the patients at Hasbro Children’s Hospital await their “magic minute” during which light displays all over Providence blink in their direction to say goodnight. The display, which lasts for five minutes every night, is a community-wide program called Good Night Lights which acknowledges patients and families at the hospital with a small gesture.
Recently, the tallest structure on College Hill — the 200-foot tower crane installed at the construction site of the new Performing Arts Center — has been illuminated with bright multicolored LED lights, which blink in the direction of the hospital every night. The tower crane joins a list of over 40 participants in the Good Night Lights program, according to program founder and Hasbro Children’s Hospital resident cartoonist Steve Brosnihan. Current participants in the program include the Biltmore Hotel, the Omni Hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn, the Sciences Library and the Providence Police Department.
Brosnihan began the Good Night Lights program on a small scale in May 2010. “The idea came out of an interaction with a patient — a teen boy who was being discharged the following day. There was a good chance we would never see each other again,” he recalled. To bid the patient goodbye, Brosnihan planned that, as he rode his bike away from the hospital, he would turn back to flash his bike light in the boy’s direction. He realized that the small gesture could be expanded into a larger effort to “raise the spirits of hospitalized children,” he said. Since then, Brosnihan has approached local businesses and organizations, asking them to place lights in their windows as part of the program.
“My own work has proven that if a kid has something to look forward to, they tend to be more susceptible to treatment,” he said. “It really is that simple. The project works because it makes kids happy.”
By placing string lights on its tower crane, the University’s latest contribution to the program has added a pop of color to College Hill. Upon the crane’s appearance in Fall 2019, Brosnihan felt inspired: the crane already had some lights on it. “Why not make them blink?” he asked.
Brosnihan spoke with a member of Shawmut Design and Construction, which oversees the PAC construction, about installing additional lights on the tower crane. Though there were white lights already installed on the crane for visibility purposes, Shawmut Design and Construction worked with Michael Guglielmo Jr, vice president for facilities management and executive vice president of finance and administration, to place LED lights on the crane that would blink in the direction of Hasbro. The project to install additional lights on the tower crane was funded entirely by the University, Guglielmo said.
The illuminated tower crane has already brought joy to the patients and families at the hospital, Brosnihan said. Each night, as kids gather around the hospital windows for the “magic minute,” they look up at the crane’s blinking display and shout out its colors, Brosnihan said. “Kids love looking at (the crane), so do families. They can’t believe that big giant thing gets busy for their sake,” he added.
The illumination of the tower crane isn’t the first time the University has participated in the Good Night Lights program. The University began its involvement in early 2016 after Brosnihan contacted University Facilities Management about shining a light from an upper floor of the Sci Li, The Herald previously reported. The project began simply — with a security guard flashing a handheld signal from one of the upper windows of the library. “The people who I initially contacted took the ball and ran with it,” Brosnihan said, recalling that one night he was pleasantly surprised to see the two floodlights shining from the roof of the Sci Li.
At the end of the magic minute, the patients at Hasbro respond to the blinking lights in the nighttime sky by shining their own lights back as a thank you. “As soon as the signal is received, we see lights flashing in the hospital window in return,” said University Librarian Harriette Hemmasi. She described the event as “a small way of connecting and letting the children know we’re thinking of them … (and) that they’re not alone.”
Because Good Night Lights has no funding of its own, most of the light displays around the city are independently funded by local businesses and organizations, Brosnihan said. The program is “strictly volunteer” and participants are responsible for purchasing the equipment. Once in a while, if a business is unable or unwilling to provide their own lights, Brosnihan has constructed his own light kit that he will donate to the participant free of charge.
Given its perch on College Hill, the University has been a very important participant in the program, Brosnihan said. “I look forward to more participation from student groups.” Last year, the women’s lacrosse team created a display in the Sci Li, flashing hand-held signals and creating shapes in the library windows, Brosnihan said.
The beauty of the program is that it is a “community effort,” Brosnihan said. “Part of the success of it comes from the fact that it is so easy … People just have to blink a light for a couple minutes — anything as small as a flashlight or as big as the fixtures on the crane.”