‘Tis the season of giving, and while most of us are moved this time of year to give to our favorite charities - whether it be goods, services or monetary donations - do we give throughout the year, not just at Christmas?
As the saying goes, “it’s better to give than to receive.”
We all try to instill this principle in our children, but do we practice what we preach? And, how much do our children really understand of its importance? Are they really grateful for what they have and willing to forfeit toys and games given them in hopes of helping someone else less fortunate.
For one Chicago boy, the challenge was presented and without pause accepted. Eight year old Giancarlo was asked by his mother, Gina Passanante, if he’d be willing to turn his birthday into a fundraiser. “Never in a million years [did I] expect his response to be, ‘Yeah, that would be a good idea’” says Gina.
Gina was amazed by her son’s goodwill and willingness to give back. As an enthusiastic supporter of Atia’s Project Ladybug Fund at The University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, a nonprofit organization dedicated to easing the struggles of cancer, Gina knows too well the hardships some children face, and how toys can be just the thing to help soften a bad day.
Over a month ago, Gina sent out party invitations which included a Wish List requesting that in lieu of gifts for Giancarlo, guests bring a new game, toy or book to donate, and the response was inspiring. “Parents of the children attending thought it was a really great idea. In fact my son has been to three parties in the last year where you brought donations versus gifts for the birthday child. One Mom told me every other year she has her kids donate versus getting gifts. It would be nice to see more and more parents adopting this tradition and giving to an organization they feel passionate about” says Gina.
And while the parents’ support was terrific, it was the kids’ response that was truly remarkable. Gina recalls the kids being acutely aware of who their toys would be going to and how they would help. As she explained, “One of the little boys even said, ‘My Mom explained to me that the toys we are sending are going to the kids in the hospital who are sick with cancer.’"
In the end, with the help of sixteen of Giancarlo’s classmates (second graders at St. James School in Arlington Heights, between the ages of 7 and 8 years old), and some additional friends and family, Giancarlo was able to collect 83 toys! Quite a feat for a young man, and a clear illustration of what a difference kids can make when given the chance.
The toys have since been donated to the holiday toy drive efforts of Atia's Project Ladybug Fund - Ladybug Love for the Holidays.
When asked what he would say if he were able to personally deliver toys to a young cancer patient - his response was uncomplicated - he’d say, “This is for you, would you like to play?” No pomp and circumstance, no need for great thanks; simply an invitation from one kid to another to play.
After the party, when Gina asked Giancarlo why he’d agreed to donate his presents he explained, “Well, here's how it works, mom. We all have an angel sitting on one shoulder and a little devil on the other. So, basically the little devil tells you not to do [good things], and then the angel tells you to open your heart and do [them]. So, I listened to the angel; it's important to listen to the angels, mom." He is one special little boy!
So when contemplating whether our children have absorbed the lesson that “it’s better to give than to receive,” we can definitely agree that at least Giancarlo gets it. His selflessness, compassion and inspiring generosity is undeniable. Gina has certainly led by example through her continued support of several nonprofit organizations, and the countless volunteer hours she's logged; her philanthropic heart has unquestionably rubbed off on her son, as evident in his recent efforts.
And maybe, just maybe, with the right encouragement, our kids will get it too.
About Project Ladybug
Established in 2007, Project Ladybug is a non-profit organization dedicated to easing the struggles of childhood cancer through financial and emotional support for patients and their families. By raising funds, children battling this disease can enjoy the quality of life they deserve and focus on recovery, improving outcomes for these patients. Project Ladybug currently exists at St. Joseph’s Regional Hospital in Paterson, NJ, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, NY and Comer Children’s Hospital at The University of Chicago.
Comer Children’s Hospital at The University of Chicago
Comer Children's Hospital at the University of Chicago's pediatric oncology team is focused on all aspects of cancer care for children -- from diagnosis and treatment, to conducting research to find promising new therapies. All of Comer’s efforts are dedicated to helping kids with cancer beat the disease, so they can live active, full lives. Comer’s pediatric cancer program is a core part of the internationally recognized University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is dedicated to uncovering the causes of cancer and in finding the best methods to cure and prevent cancer.
Filed under: Uncategorized