Student creates playground project for the sight impaired


You can’t be too young to start a not-for-profit.

Fourteen-year-old Caitlyn Michiels, who attends William Floyd Middle School in Moriches, began Caitlyn’s Vision when she was 9 years old.

That resulted in a visual-aid project she pitched to Legis. James Mazzarella (R,C Moriches) and ultimately its recent installation at Smith Point County Park.

“For the edges that are dangerous to a child, where they would not know there was a drop-off point or any railing, a child could fall,” explained Caitlyn’s mom, Kim Swicicki. “So those areas were painted yellow with a gritty grey addition. Most visually impaired can see the yellow, and having to feel the gritty area helps as well.”

Caitlyn, a Mastic resident, was diagnosed with anterior bilateral uveitis, a third leading cause of blindness in children, at age 8.

“One day I saw a medical bill for my medicine and asked my mom, ‘What happens if a person didn’t have insurance to get medication?’ We wanted to help people like that,” Caitlyn said.

Swicicki said Caitlyn’s nonprofit has helped those in places like Arizona, California, Connecticut.

“If they need new eyeglasses, she purchases them, and also assistant devices for the blind,” Swicicki said.

Caitlyn’s connection with Mazzarella began when he was campaigning in 2021. Caitlyn was working at a blood drive at the Mastic Fire Department when she first bonded with him.

“I met her in the spring of 2021,” Mazzarella recalled. “She already had a relationship with [former Suffolk County legislator] Rudi Sunderland and I was told, ‘You have to meet this kid.’”

In 2023, Caitlyn and her mom requested a meeting with Mazzarella about her project.

“We already supported their fundraisers,” he said. “So, we sat down and she told us she had this idea for an aid at a playground that wouldn’t cost a lot of money, but would help children with sight problems. She asked us to get in touch with the Parks Department, so we brought in the parks commissioner. He thought it was a great idea. It wasn’t expensive and crossed off all the boxes. [The] parks [department] looked into it and picked out Smith Point as a pilot.”

A communications board was added by the county. 

“The communications board was established to assist nonverbal children with pictures, letters, and numbers on it,” Mazzarella continued. “So, a child can go over to the board and point to a related picture or point to an alphabet on the board to form a word. They’re becoming fairly popular.”

Middle school principal Camille Person and William Floyd school board members Robert Taiani, Kevin Meyer, and Angelo Cassarino were among the officials who attended the park installation to cheer Caitlyn on.

Her quiet maturity has made its mark.

“She’s fairly shy,” noted Mazzarella. “But she is always filled with ideas to champion children with visual impairments, and her organization and presentation are mature beyond her years.”

Caitlyn is now 14. “She’s done really well, and we found a wonderful team of doctors who have kept her eyes in remission for four years,” said Swicicki.

Next up is the Caitlyn’s Vision gala.

“You would be astounded at the gala they do,” said Mazzarella. “It’s each August, and about 200 people go.

What they’re trying for now is getting money to buy a van for mobile vision screening.”

“It’s Aug. 14 at Giorgio’s Baiting Hollow,” Caitlyn added. “People can go on our website for tickets, https//”

P.S.: The gala pops right up. 


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