It was a tragedy that led Douglas Elliman Northport agent Jason Fusaro to start volunteering with his two dogs—Australian Shepherds—Lulu and Darla. Jason’s son Oliver, born with a condition called Hirschsprung’s disease which affected his large intestine, passed away suddenly in winter 2019 at the age of only three-and-a-half. Through this devastating loss, Jason and his wife, Kathleen, found strength in the unconditional love of their dogs.
“At my son’s wake, I made a pledge to myself that all the love Oliver gave to the dogs and the dogs gave to him, I was going to give back to other sick children.”
Lulu and Darla are now certified therapy dogs and can be found volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House in New Hyde Park, New York from 6:30–8:00pm every Friday night, with Jason and Kathleen, as part of the center’s pet therapy program.
Elliman Insider spoke with Jason about his motivation to give back in the wake of an unimaginable loss. His drive to share the unbreakable bond of child and dog with families in need is nothing short of inspiring.
Elliman Insider: How did you get involved with the Ronald McDonald House?
JASON FUSARO: I was at a fundraiser through LIBOR (Long Island Board of Realtors) and the president of the Ronald McDonald House, Matt Campo, was there. He gave a beautiful speech during lunch and I knew I had to talk to him. I ended up getting his number and I got an interview at the Ronald McDonald House, and we’ve been volunteering there since June 2019. It’s such a great experience, you meet a lot of wonderful people from around the country and all different walks of life.
EI: What is your favorite memory from volunteering?
JF: We go to the Ronald McDonald House in New Hyde park every Friday night, so you start to see some of the same people each week. There was one little girl who was about 4 years old, undergoing cancer treatment, and she loved the dogs. About a week later we went back and she was in the cafeteria with her mom and she saw us across the way. She immediately dropped everything she was doing and came running over to us to hug the dogs—a moment like that really sums up why the pet therapy program is so impactful.
EI: Why is it important to you to continue to give your time to pet therapy programs?
JF: It’s the best feeling in the world, seeing how the dogs affect people and bring so much joy and light into their lives. The therapy dogs make a huge difference to people in the hospital, nursing home or undergoing treatment for an illness. Therapy dog visits offer a brief moment to smile and laugh. Volunteering has given me a new meaning for life after losing my son. For me, it’s very personal because our dogs loved Oliver, and Oliver loved them. And this is just the beginning, we want to continue moving forward with this and giving back in other ways.
—by Jacqueline Kuron