As founder and president of Supporting Kids In Pain, or SKIP, which provides care bags for hospitalized children, Sarah feels that warmth all year.
In fact, if everything goes as planned, I hope to continue this as my full-time career, said Sarah, sitting in the kitchen of her parents home. She was joined by her mother Sharon and older sister Gina, who, along with Sarahs father Russ and siblings Anthony and Joe, help support Sarahs future goals. Right now, that is to provide SKIP care bags to one childrens hospital in all 50 states. Weve done five states so far, Sarah said, including Ohio, Texas, New York, Michigan and Tennessee.
Its a hefty goal for anyone, let alone a 15-year-old, but thats Sarah.
When her mother started volunteering at a retirement home to fill the void caused by her sisters death and the closing of a business she owned, Sarah went along. While her mother chaired a book club, Sarah helped with bingo and soon became the visitor many residents looked forward to seeing. They were funny, said Sarah, who became particularly fond of a feisty Italian lady who was intent on making Sarah street smart.
After volunteering with her mom, who has always tried to instill in her children the importance of charity and community involvement, Sarah decided to make her annual Christmas party with friends a fundraiser for kids. Everyone was invited to join in the holiday fun but to bring a gift that could be donated to St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital. It was the biggest childrens hospital I could think of and Im a kid so I thought of them, Sarah said.
The kids were a little unsure about it, but I know a lot of the parents liked the idea, said Gina, who has taken on the role of publicist and fashion consultant to help her little sister prepare for the interview requests she has received since starting her own charity. Many of the moms showed up with huge bags filled with gifts, added Sharon.
It was fun, Sarah said. The girls snacked on a feast of holiday appetizers prepared by Sarahs mom, decorated messenger tubes that held letters of encouragement written by each of the girls, and created a video of get-well wishes to post on YouTube.
Sarah hosted a second holiday party and shortly after that decided to do it year-round. Only instead of putting the donations in cardboard boxes, Sarah and her mother came up with the idea for the more personal care bags. That was easy, although the Maisano girls had to learn how to operate an industrial sewing machine. Its when Sarah started emailing companies and asking for donations that she learned her first lesson as a philanthropist. They want a 501(c)(3), Sarah said, of the paperwork required for the nonprofit status of a legal charity. So I applied for one.
Luckily, Sarah had the help of her mother, who followed up emails with phone calls, and a cousin with her MBA. She handled the paperwork and Sarah funded the $1,000 fee from her personal savings. Fifteen months later, as Sarah and her friends celebrated the last day of school, a mail truck arrived with the long-awaited announcement. SKIP Supporting Kids In Pain was an official nonprofit charitable organization. Sarahs charity now works with the Childrens Hospital of Michigan Foundation. They still do the annual gift parties for St. Judes and are making progress on Sarahs goal to impact the lives of sick children in every state. The SKIP team has also expanded to include Gia, 10, and Angelina Randazzo, 9, and Jaden Polak, 13. Our goal is to have children as our helpers, said Sarah, who attends Regina High School in Warren, which hosted a Jeans Day fundraiser in which students who are normally required to wear school uniforms paid a dollar each to don jeans for the day. Their efforts raised around $400 for SKIP. Sarahs former middle school, St. Lawrence in Utica, also held a fundraiser to help pay for the items that fill each care bag, including a toy, a prayer book and an angel pin. Continued...
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