As lifetime friends with a desire to unite their school communities through a common cause, Emily Sullivan (15, Half Hollow Hills West), Gianna Tantillo (15, Half Hollow Hills East) and Julia Johnson (15, St. Anthony’s High School), have collaborated their charitable efforts with Kids Need More.
The group is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids and their families cope with cancer and other life threatening illnesses. The programs are designed to help make MoRE [Motivational Recovery Environments] out of an ordinary day by providing much needed laughter, fun, friendship and support.
Our initial project was our first annual “Fit For a Cause” event in May 2018. We encouraged teens to put down their devices and join us for a TRX [total body resistance exercise] and cycling class in which all proceeds and donations were used to enhance the Kids Need More summer campers’ experience. We had the opportunity to see how much joy our efforts brought to these children when we volunteered at the camp this past summer, sponsored by Kids Need More. We had such an amazing time with the campers that we wanted to do more.
This past fall, during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month [in September], we held a toy drive across our school communities. We collected over 250 toys. Some were used to make gift baskets for hospitalized children, while others were used to put a smile on a child’s face this holiday season.
The group runs an annual cheer bus, and this year we were lucky to be a part of the 220 volunteers that hand-delivered toys to 350 children at 170 different homes. It was great to see our fundraising efforts come full circle as we saw the benefits of the donations we raised, and, most importantly, spend time with the Kids Need More families.
Why did you choose this? How did you get started?:
Being active teenagers, our goal was to create an event that inspired other teenagers to be active with us while raising money. As friends since preschool, now attending three different local high schools, our intent was to create a way to spend time together while doing something to benefit our community. After our first event was so successful, we decided we couldn’t stop there and felt our toy drive would be another way to pull our neighboring schools together.
What has been your biggest achievement or takeaway from volunteering so far?:
We exceeded our expectations by collecting over $3400 and over 250 toys! We were overwhelmed by the support of our school communities, friends, and family that helped make our first year a success.
We intend to continue our efforts in the future and are currently putting together our plan for our 2nd annual “Fit For A Cause” which will take place this Spring 2019. We hope to inspire more teenagers to donate and participate so we can surpass our fundraising goal.
Are you involved with any additional volunteering?:
We are all active members of various clubs within our school communities volunteering our time. At Half Hollow Hills, our involvement in Key Club and Amnesty as well as both serving as Vice Presidents of our Sophomore classes at High School West and High School East encompasses many volunteer activities. At Saint Anthony’s, Julia is involved in the SALT leadership team and Friars Faithful clubs.
Anything else you’d like to add:
We couldn’t have done this without the support of our Half Hollow Hills schools. We wanted to thank Intelligent Fitness in East Northport for donating their space and time, and also thank co-founder Melissa Firmes-Ray of Kids Need More for her encouragement.
To get involved or learn more, go to kidsneedmore.org.
This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting local volunteers. Know someone who volunteers their time to make Huntington a better place to live? Email [email protected]