By Dawn M Chiossi
“This is for you,” people say this all the time when they give a gift to someone else. A gift can do so much; It can make a person smile, laugh, and create the best of feelings; Just the small gesture of giving one touches people, creates connection, and makes others feel uplifted. Whether the gift is small or large really does not matter, it communicates the tangible message to someone else that says, ‘I’m thinking of you.’
Sometimes, even in the darkest most dire of circumstances, even something as small as receiving a gift can make an amazing difference.
People give gifts for all kinds of reasons; for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, baptisms, for showers, and for every occasion. Perhaps one of the best occasions to give a gift is for someone who is ill– visitors will bring food, flowers, balloons, trinkets. It’s done to show their caring for the person who is suffering, to wish them well. And the benefits of gift giving are tremendous; it gives the receiver a boost, an instant uplift; Just knowing that someone has thought of them instantly cheers people up.
Everyone who has ever been sick knows that it takes a lot out of them. Even something as commonplace and mundane as a cold or flu can make someone feel wrung out, exhausted, depressed and out of sorts.
When someone is suffering with a more serious, chronic life-threatening illness such as cancer, those feelings are exacerbated even more. Chronic illnesses can not only zap a person physically, it can take its toll psychologically as well. There’s something exhausting and disheartening about living with them. Day after day, it is only natural that the battle can test patience, positivity, and can cause and escalate depression and negativity. In short, these feelings can weaken the spirit, undermining the good that a hopeful bright attitude can do.
Take cancer for example–It is said that everybody knows somebody with this disease, and it’s all the more heartbreaking when these cancer patients are children.
Shockingly, each year in the United States there are approximately 15,780 children who are diagnosed with childhood cancer. Approximately 1 in 285 children in the United States will be diagnosed before their 20th birthday.
In those instances, it is difficult for others to know what to say and do. While people might wish to do something to help these children, they may end up doing nothing for fear of doing the wrong thing.
Yet, even the smallest action can make a difference and make someone happy. and Project Glow Gold embraces that philosophy wholeheartedly.
Just the very name of this nonprofit organization makes people happy. Glowing Gold brings to mind brilliance and richness. An Olympic Gold Medal symbolizes victory, and elation and when it is said that a person glows from within, it conjures up images of a person flourishing with success, rosiness, promise, and robust beauty and health.
Realizing that cancer affects so many children, and seeking for a way to brighten their spirits, Project Glow Gold was the inspiration of Hanover Resident and former Roxbury High School Student, Jessica Bartelloni along with her sister Victoria Bartelloni and friend Kim Hughes.
No stranger to helping others, Bartelloni was obtaining her Emergency Medical Technician Certificate at the same time, as well as volunteering at her first aid squad.
With a passion for giving back, and spreading good things around, Bartelloni shares that she came up with the idea for Project Glow Gold when she began it as a senior project at Roxbury High School in late 2017. She was so passionate about helping children with pediatric cancer, she continued the project after her high school journey was completed.
It was a simple, lovely, common-sense idea for Bartelloni, realizing that sometimes something as simple as receiving a gift can put the shine on a bad time for the person who receives it.
“I’ve gone through hard times myself, and I found it’s the little things like kindness from others– even small things like presents–that get you through,” she discloses.
Founded with the mission to give hope, love and strength to children fighting cancer, Project Glow Gold seeks to find the child within the diagnosis, concerned with their well-being and spirit of these young people battling cancer, wanting to do something to help and make them smile.
Since its inception, Project Glow Gold has been helping thousands of patients battling pediatric cancer.
For these volunteers, little things mean a lot. Project Glow Gold creates baskets and care packages for children battling cancer just to make them feel better and give them a pick me up. These presents are then given to children 18 years and younger who are undergoing chemotherapy treatments. For Bartelloni and members of project Glow Gold, their primary goal is to give these brave fighters something to brighten their days, giving them something positive and uplifting to look forward to.
Each box is wrapped in gold paper, and according to Bartelloni, holds approximately nine or more baskets and care packages. “Each care package is different, depending on the ages and genders of the patients,” she explains.
Baskets and care packages will contain a myriad of items, all chosen with care to help children and teens to occupy them, have fun, raise morale, and aid them as well. Some items include enjoyable ones such as toys for both boys and girls; such as Barbie dolls, action figures, and toy cars and trucks. They will also include coloring books, crayons, playdough, colored pencils, markers, paints, stickers, crosswords and word searches, books, card and board games, stress balls and more. For teens, often included in the baskets are things like nail polish, makeup and cosmetic bags, or headbands and Lokai Bracelets–anything to uplift them.
Additionally, care packages will hold necessary practical items such as lip balm, gum, fuzzy socks, and anti-nausea wrist bands.
“They are just some items to help them through their chemo treatments. Helping these kids and teens is a cause close to my heart,” Bartelloni shares.
When asked what items are favorites for the patients, she mentions a classic, “The coloring books, definitely”, she says. “It’s something I include in the baskets all of the time. they just love them.”
Through hard work and dedication, with the mission of making a difference, Bartelloni often will drop boxes off at various hospitals such as Morristown Memorial, Overlook Medical Center, St. Barnabas, St. Jude’s, even hospitals as far away as Monmouth, New York or Philadelphia.
Bartelloni shares that she takes approximately 70 boxes to each hospital.
Now in their second year, Project Glow Gold hopes to collect an impressive 5,000 items for the patients this year, hoping to surpass last year’s total of 4,287 items collected. Any donations will be appreciated, although it is asked that people do not give perfume, lotion, stuffed animals/dolls.
Raising money through a GoFundMe Page as well as collection drives, Bartelloni asserts that she is expanding her collection drive through Whippany as well as Roxbury this year.
As they had last year, Roxbury High School will have a drop box at their school for donations. Drop box locations will also be at Palermo’s in Whippany and Kids Pediatric Dentistry in Cedar Knolls.
Palermo’s is located at 891 Route 10 and Kids Pediatric Dentistry is located at 218 Ridgedale Avenue in Cedar Knolls. Coming soon, drop off box locations are slated to be at System One in Parsippany and REMAX in Landing.
While it just was formed by Hughes on February 20th, already Project Glow Gold’s GoFundMe Page has raised $380.00 for supplies, shipping costs, and transportation costs and is still trending. So far to date, their highest donation has been $200.
Everyone can glow gold from the inside, and that’s the message that Project Glow Gold helps to bring to others. Not only is it inspiring and empowering to the patients themselves, but to everyone who hears it. Recognizing the battles that these plucky fighters endure on a regular basis fighting cancer she discloses, ”‘Be Bold, Glow Gold’ is a phrase I’ve been pushing since I started my pediatric cancer project,“ Bartelloni asserts. “We believe in everything these children do every single day. With strength, hope and faith, they battle for their lives daily.”
The public has rallied around Project Glow Gold with tremendous support.
“Everyone has been great,” Bartelloni enthuses. “People just love it, and they have been great about donating items for this worthwhile cause. A lot of people give me stuff.”
While she is unable to distribute the packages to the patients personally due to hospital regulations, due to the reception she has received from the staff, she is sure that the Glow Gold Gifts will make the patient’s smile, and the response to Project Glow Gold has been amazing for Bartelloni on a personal level as well. “Some of the families email me, send me letters,” she shares. “I’m even very close with one of the families.”
For her, the charity is all about making a difference, and taking action to do so. She relates a moment about attending a St. Baldrick’s head shaving cancer awareness fundraiser (to make money to end childhood cancer) that really resonated with her, doubling her own ambition for Project Glow Gold. “Seeing all those shaved heads really stood out for me,” Bartelloni discloses candidly. “So many people took direct action to help these kids. It was very affecting.”
For Bartelloni and the rest of the members of Project Glow Gold, making a difference for these kids starts with a little kindness, and a gift from the heart. “It’s the extra little things in life that make someone so happy. These kids are so worth it,” she shares.