With a simple flash of light, Steve Brosnihan has brought smiles to thousands of children who have spent time at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence.
He is the Resident Cartoonist at Hasbro, where he has been sharing his artistic talents with the patients for 28 years. Brosnihan is also a teacher at Spurwink School in Lincoln, RI. There he uses his cartooning to support the academic curriculum. He is also the creative mind behind Good Night Lights, a vision that he had in 2010, and is a recipient of the 2018 Jefferson Award for his work on this project.
After many years of carrying on this tradition himself, in 2015 he reached out to local businesses to take part. Now every night at 8:30 p.m. the skyline of Providence lights up, buildings flash their lights, police and fire departments line up to flash their beacons and patrons line different sections of the city visible from Hasbro with flashlights in hand. This orchestrated light show is Brosnihan's vision of saying good night to the children inside of the hospital, who in turn flash their flashlights back to those outside. The show has impacted so many children giving them something special to do before bedtime while in the hospital.
Brosnihan started the practice with a flash from his bicycle light from a street corner on his way home from the hospital. He told children to look for his light to flash at a specific spot out their window. It was his way of saying good night to them. That gesture has now grown to an overwhelming list of nightly participants across Providence and into East Providence.
Brosnihan's hope for Good Night Lights is to eventually have the whole city involved, along with as many people as possible flashing their lights to say good night too.
His wish is already coming true.
Governor Gina Raimondo announced on Wednesday that the Rhode Island State House would begin to participate by flashing lights on its dome every Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. for 30 seconds, in solidarity with the Good Night Lights program.
"Participation by the State House dome will add a major, exciting element to the Good Night Lights display on Wednesday nights,” Brosnihan said in the press release announcing the state’s participation. “This majestic building will not only delight patients, families and staff at Hasbro Children's Hospital…but will also represent the caring heart and determined hope of all Rhode Islanders for our hospitalized children."
Elsewhere, on a recent cold Tuesday night the Warwick group for Good Night Lights could be found under the concrete bridges off Allen's Avenue. They all quietly gathered beginning at around 8:15 p.m., saying hello to one another as they prepared for the big moment. This has become part of their weekly routine. No matter the weather or what kind of day they've had themselves, they all make time to be there to flash their lights to the kids.
While they may not know who's blinking back, there's no denying the feeling you get when the kids flash back to you. The rapid flashing lights from Hasbro's windows almost have a voice of their own; it's as if they are saying, "Do you see me?" The lights transmit an inexplicable excitement, a message that is only felt by those who share in the moment.
Sarah Bates, one of the owner's of the Hot Club in Providence has been flashing the Hot Club sign since 2015. When Brosnihan approached her in 2015 to be part of Good Night Lights he asked her to flash the sign once a month or more frequently if they were able. Bates thought to herself that this was something she needed to do every night, as there are children that are always in the hospital, and so her plan to make it happen began. She and her staff have never missed a night since, and her patrons even come to join in – flashing their car headlights as well as flashlights.
"It's something for those kids to look forward to," Bates said, adding that, "Steve's idea just grew, it has really blossomed." Bates and her family even go to the Hot Club on Christmas to be sure they never miss a night.
Across Narragansett Bay along the shore in East Providence, every Wednesday evening the Police and Fire Department line up and flash all of their beacons, lighting up the evening sky in a show of support to the kids.
Brosnihan calls Good Night Lights a "Magic Minute" that doesn't cost a thing other than a minute of your time. It is the simplicity of the flashing of lights that really makes it so special. He hopes to have his idea spread to other cities where children's hospitals are located as well.
Inside of Hasbro, accompanied by the "conductor of lights" himself, Brosnihan explained in detail every single light across the skyline as if they were the notes on a musical score. The view is breathtaking. He has single-handedly contacted every Good Night Lights participant, all of which he does on a volunteer basis. There were also two patients who were witnessing Good Night Lights for the very first time: Isiah Alves and Daytashia Harvey, who have both spent many days and nights at Hasbro but had never gotten the chance to take part in Good Night Lights.
After looking out of the windows from their rooms with flashlights in hand, they both were overjoyed by the whole experience. Daytashia said, "It was cool, I'm happy for me but more happy for the little kids." She explained how it was so nice for them to be part of something so special.
Isiah, who is battling cancer, was amazed at how many people came out to show their support to the patients of Hasbro saying, "They don't have to do that, it makes me feel more positive." Isiah also said he'd be looking for the lights again the next night – proof that Steve's vision has created the happiness it was intended to, even if only for a minute.
For more information about Good Night Lights and how you can get involved, visit Good Night Lights on Facebook or go to www.goodnightlights.org. You can also view a recent video about Good Night Lights on Youtube by searching "Local Dunkin Donuts support Good Night Lights at Hasbro Children's Hospital."