PHOTO: ‘Spirits Are Soaring’ – Event Organizer Taralynn Vecchio, center, is joined by her friends and fellow volunteers, Chiafullo’s employees Mark and Keith, and St. Mary Pastor Father Jeff Kegley, far right.
Middletown, New Jersey – For over 70 special needs students with limited access to recreational opportunities, the chance to spend a day dancing, shooting hoops, laughing, creating sand art, and enjoying tasty treats like doughnuts, pizza, cotton candy and snow cones is a recipe for something special. When big hearts and open arms are thrown into the mix, something spectacular happens, and that’s exactly what Taralynn Vecchio, a senior at Mater Dei Prep, a Catholic high school in the New Monmouth section of Middletown, had in mind when she created the ‘Heavenly Hope’ Fun Day several years ago. Vecchio was joined in her desire to help the disabled by friends and fellow Mater Dei students volunteering to interact with the children, who are coping with a range of disabilities including autism and Down’s syndrome and attend schools like Harbor House, Eatontown, and Sister Georgine, Ewing. “I really love to volunteer, and these kids are great. Everything about them just inspires me…the smiles, the joy, the great attitudes,” noted Vecchio, chief organizer of the annual fun day held for a third year in Memorial Hall, the school gymnasium.
The idea for ‘Heavenly Hope’ Fun Day took shape during Vecchio’s sophomore year. While volunteering for a program targeted toward the disabled, she ran into a parent of one of the children who explained that organized recreational opportunities can be rare for special needs children. Vecchio, who seems to have as much fun as the children she is helping, pitched the idea to Principal Steven Sciarappa then started enlisting the support of the local business community, who sponsor specific activities and donate funds and refreshments. The event has grown, and new sponsors like Chiafullo’s, a pizzeria that recently opened a second location in Campbell’s Junction, get involved every year, according to Vecchio. “We were thrilled and impressed that Taralynn, a wonderful girl, asked us for assistance and did so with such enthusiasm and caring,” stated Chiafullo’s owner Meghan McLean, who donated 20 pizza pies and was joined by Chiafullo’s employees Mark and Keith, who helped to serve the children and were clearly moved by the ‘gratitude attitude’ in the air. “The children are the heart and soul, and most importantly, the future of every community,” added McLean. Entertainer and Disc Jockey Stephen Munger of No Limit Entertainment, Middletown, donated his talent and played trendy tunes like “I’m Sexy and I Know It” and “YMCA.” Munger noted, “There were miles of smiles, and spirits were soaring. These children…they are just perfect,” Munger stated emotionally.
PHOTO CAPTION 8903: ‘Spirits Are Soaring’ – Event Organizer Taralynn Vecchio, center, is joined by her friends and fellow volunteers, Chiafullo’s employees Mark and Keith, and St. Mary Pastor Father Jeff Kegley, far right.