Students spread cheer through charity

Devin Menker, Anthony Silvestri, and his friends pose for a picture during Believe Night.


            The holiday season offers students many ways to get involved in charitable events and activities. Campaigns and charities currently active in our high school include the Believe in Unicorns letters for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Toys for Tots, the Adopt a Family campaign, and the Humane Society’s donations to the animal shelter. 

            Anthony Silvestri, who formerly had his wish made through the Make a Wish Foundation, spearheads the Believe in Unicorns Campaign, a local effort to inspire students to write letters stating a holiday wish. Macy’s then donates two dollars to the Make a Wish Foundation for each letter collected through December 15. 

            Silvestri initiated the campaign in Old Bridge eight years ago and has collected over 210,000 letters in the past. “I was very impacted by this wish, and the generosity of the foundation inspired me to organize this event in Old Bridge, which allows many other children in similar situations to have their wishes granted,” explained Silvestri. 

            Along with writing Believe letters in classes, The Old Bridge Education Association hosted an event on December 1 that allowed the community to take photos and have pizza with Santa. The event allowed more community members to write letters to contribute to reaching this year’s letter goal of 100,000 letters.  

Children pose with Santa and Mrs. Claus for pictures, while Makayla Huff, in full elf costume, hands out candy canes.

            OBHS will continue to collect donations for Toys for Tots, a national charity that collects toys for children who may not be able to receive toys this holiday season, through December 16. “A lot of families are having trouble buying toys for their kids for the holidays,” said Guy Lassen who has organized the PEER programs involvement with the charity for the past eight years. 

            Students and faculty members can place new, unwrapped gifts in the donation boxes in the main office or by the reception desk. “It brings joy to children during the holidays,” said Jenna Scopelite, who stressed her belief in the importance of the charity. 

            The PEER students also plan to decorate a bus, dress as Santa’s, and collect the toys from donation boxes in the Old Bridge elementary schools. “All the children will be so happy, and seeing the smiles on their faces will make me happy,” voiced Christina Chiofalo. 

            The Animal Humane Society is collecting things such as cat food, baby blankets, clay cat litter, puppy pads, and more. “I chose to participate because with the holiday season in full swing, shelters are extra busy!” expressed senior Bailey Scanlon. “They are in need of supplies that will get them through the coming colder months! While of course animal specific donations are great, there are other supplies like old t-shirts, and bottle caps that students can access more easily.”  

            The students in the club have plans for all of the materials they collect through December 16. “The Humane Society will be donating all the items we receive to multiple rescues such as the New Beginnings Animal Rescue and the Husky House,” explained Isabelle Marmara. “For items such as t-shirts, bottle caps, and fluffy socks we will be making toys and items ourselves to later on donate to these listed rescues and others.” 

            Adopt a Family, facilitated by counselors Jennifer McCann, Renee Galdieri, and Robert Waitt, provides supplies and gifts needed by less fortunate families right here in our community. “The holidays are the season of giving and hope, and I love that our community is able to help our own families through their generosity,” McCann conveyed.  

Anthony Silvestri poses for a picture with State Senator Sam Thompson at the Believe Night event where participants wrote letters to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

            This year, with the help of students, staff members, and clubs, such as Chinese Honor Society, Chinese Club, English Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, and PEER, the program provided support for 21 Old Bridge families in need, including everything from clothes to toys and stuffed animals. 

            Under the leadership of faculty advisor Nicole Mondano and Sharon Gallagher, the English Honor Society, including Ryann Clawson and Sofia Schiano collected items for one of the families. “As a society, we adopted three people. Members signed up to bring necessities like shirts, pants, and winter coats for each person. Every spot was filled!” exclaimed Schiano. “Then, we organized a gift-wrapping party for anyone in the honor society to offer a helping hand.”   

            “I wanted to participate because I genuinely enjoy community service,” elaborated Schiano. “I’ve always loved offering a hand to some organization or group of people to make a difference.” You can still make difference, too, by contributing toys, believe letters, or animal items through December 16. 

Posted on 12/13/22

Photos by Katelyn Buchalter 

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