Lights Flash Every Night at 8:30 in Providence, Rhode Island



For one sparkling minute each night, skyscrapers, tugboats, hotels, a yacht club and police cruisers send a blinking goodnight message to sick kids inside a Rhode Island children’s hospital. A gesture that began with a single light six years ago has become a nightly display along the Providence River — and a highly anticipated ritual inside Hasbro Children’s Hospital. Some of Providence’s bigger hotels have installed permanent signals that automatically turn on flashy messages at 8:30 p.m., to the delight of giddy toddlers and older children who can spot them from their windows. However, most of the lights are hand-held. One volunteer group gathers near the top of a 28-story office building to flash their lights. The farthest signal comes from a church group blinking from a dark shoreline two miles downriver in East Providence. The idea began with the hospital’s resident cartoonist, Steve Brosnihan, who gets to the hospital by bike. Using his bike lights and flashlights, he began sending simple messages tailored to individual children. He later appealed to local businesses, and the first one to participate was The Hot Club, a waterfront restaurant whose patrons gather on the deck each night to wave their flashlights and cellphones. About two dozen kids, who can range in age from 2 to 20, are in the hospital on any given night.