Christine's Hope for Kids gives kids a chance to be kids(Read article summary)
The nonprofit group Christine's Hope for Kids has given more than $300,000 in donations and in-kind support to groups in New Jersey and across the country that work with children.
Courtesy of Christine's Hope for Kids
In January 2010, Christine Gianacaci was visiting Haiti with a team from Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., on a trip to help children and the underprivileged when she ‚Äď along with five others ‚Äď were killed in a massive earthquake that rocked that country.
When her parents, John and Jean Gianacaci, took on the unimaginable task of planning their daughter‚Äôs funeral, they both agreed that they had to find a way to continue their daughter‚Äôs good works. They also wanted to find a way to put the money that could be used for flowers to good use.
‚ÄúAt her funeral we decided, in lieu of flowers, we would start a foundation,‚ÄĚ Mrs. Gianacaci says. ‚ÄúWe decided to start a foundation to help underprivileged kids and kids with differences.‚ÄĚ
Christine‚Äôs Hope for Kids was born.
The mission of the organization ‚Äď helping to give kids a chance to just be kids ‚Äď is significant in a number of ways to the Gianacaci family.
Christine grew up with learning differences and had been diagnosed with Tourette‚Äôs syndrome, her mother says.
‚ÄúShe knew what the challenges were for kids like her,‚ÄĚ Mrs. Gianacaci says. ‚ÄúShe knew what that was like. She had a very big heart for kids that lived with adversity.‚ÄĚ
Christine was able to attend college, and her Tourette‚Äôs syndrome waned with age, her mother says.
In college¬† she became involved with Students for the Poor, a branch of the Food for the Poor organization. That‚Äôs where the other motivation behind the family‚Äôs foundation comes in.
‚ÄúThe kids went to Haiti to make a difference, and do some good, and they lost their lives doing it,‚ÄĚ Jean Gianacaci. She says she felt ‚ÄúWe have to do something to honor this.‚ÄĚ
Gianacaci recalled her daughter‚Äôs experience on a similar trip in 2009 to Jamaica, and the changed outlook Christine had when she returned home.
‚ÄúThe things she saw, and the poverty she saw, were overwhelming for her,‚ÄĚ Gianacaci says. ‚ÄúWhen you grow up here, you‚Äôre not exposed to poverty at that level.‚ÄĚ
But what impacted Christine most, her mother says, were the children she met.
‚ÄúWhat touched her heart the most were the kids who lived there,‚ÄĚ Gianacaci says. ‚ÄúThe kids were happy. They were in such poverty ‚Ä¶ but yet, they were happy.‚ÄĚ
Jean and her husband, John, with the help of a part-time assistant and a score of volunteers, have since taken up Christine‚Äôs mission. To date, the foundation has given more than $300,000 in donations and in-kind support to organizations in New Jersey and across the country that work with children.
The family has decided to focus on helping children in the United States.
‚ÄúKids need help everywhere, but we wanted to stay here because there is a tremendous need right here in our very own country,‚ÄĚ Gianacaci says.
Another benefit is the ability to more easily see the results of donations and support.
‚ÄúI can see where our money goes,‚ÄĚ Gianacaci says, adding that she makes sure donations are put to the right uses on behalf of supporters. ‚ÄúWe are very grateful that people are willing ‚Äď with all the choices they have ‚Äď to donate to Christine‚Äôs Hope for Kids.‚ÄĚ
From supporting community organizations such as Big Brothers-Big Sisters to partnering with schools to raise money or assembling pajama bags for disaster victims, Christine‚Äôs Hope for Kids has teamed with the wider community.
It also supports individual children, sending some to summer camps and providing equipment for others so that they can participate in athletics.
‚ÄúKids are shut out of games and activities because of money issues. It is overwhelming to me,‚ÄĚ Gianacaci says. ‚ÄúWhere will their memories be if they don‚Äôt get a chance to do anything?‚ÄĚ
The foundation also helped bring a group of New Jersey kids to the seashore ‚Äď for the first time.
‚ÄúWe sent kids to the Jersey shore last summer who have never seen the ocean,‚ÄĚ she says. ‚ÄúAnd they live in Jersey.‚ÄĚ
Another project supported youngsters taking a photography course in Florida ‚Äď something Gianacaci hopes will be a positive memory for them whether they take up the hobby or not.
The Gianacaci family also aims to help teach kids how to help other kids. Partnering with schools can be a big part of achieving that goal.
‚ÄúEverybody needs a little help some time,‚ÄĚ Gianacaci says. ‚ÄúJust because you don‚Äôt have a brand-new bike doesn‚Äôt mean you are less of anything. It just means you don‚Äôt have a bike.‚ÄĚ
While her formal title with Christine‚Äôs Hope for Kids is ‚Äúpresident,‚ÄĚ Gianacaci prefers to be called something else.
‚ÄúI really like ‚Äėmom‚Äô the best,‚ÄĚ she says.