RBC students 'Make Wishes Come True' for seriously ill children
By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
Thanks to the desire to put their faith into action, a student club in Red Bank Catholic High School is helping the dreams of seriously ill children in Monmouth and Ocean counties come true.
The secondary school’s “Making Wishes Come True” club, which raises funds to grant the desires was created in 2010 when young Kasey Kennedy, a student in St. James School, Red Bank, was diagnosed with a rare medical condition and granted a wish through the Make A Wish Foundation. When doctors learned the child’s illness was not as grave as they had thought, Kasey chose to “give back” her wish to aid someone less fortunate.
Kasey’s mother, Ashleigh Kennedy, a science teacher in RBC, shared with her students how the Make a Wish Foundation helped the family through the experience. Inspired by the teacher’s example, her students approached her to start the “Making Wishes Come True” club at the high school and serve as club moderator.
Over its first five years of existence, RBC students worked with the New Jersey chapter of the Make a Wish Foundation to grant eight wishes for children, including family trips to Disney World, cruises, a trip to Greece and a child’s wish to be an astronaut at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Kennedy noted that the reach of the club extends beyond the RBC student members into alumni and the community.
“Students have used the opportunities of Sweet 16 and graduation parties to continue the mission and have guests donate to the cause rather than receive gifts,” the teacher said.
In 2016, club members chose to assist a charity even closer to home: Red Bank-based non-profit Jason’s Dream for Kids, Inc., which grants wishes to children in Monmouth and Ocean counties. As its major fundraiser, the club conducts an annual benefit carnival held on the grounds of St. James Church. Rides, carnival games, food vendors, music and a silent auction with prizes donated by area businesses and RBC families serve as a good time that also does good.
“Since 2016, we have raised over $30,000, primarily through the success of our carnival,” said Kennedy. “This year we also collected new toys for patients who would be spending their holidays on the pediatric floor of local hospitals and provided Christmas for a family who lost a child a week before due to a lifelong illness.”
RBC “Making Wishes Come True” club members also see value in outreach to those less fortunate and the outward expression of Catholic Social Teaching.
“Being in this club has opened my eyes to the amount of children locally who are so brave in their fight against illness. The fact that they do it with a smile has inspired me to wake each morning counting my blessings,” noted Gianna Piroso.
“I have participated in this event since I was in middle school and it has shown me that I can be a part of something much larger than myself,” declared freshman Danellia Gangemi. “One of the reasons I made the decision to come to Red Bank Catholic was so that I could become a member in the club and continue to volunteer at the carnival.”
RBC junior Mackenzie Boyle said, “It has made me realize how important it is for me to give back to children who really do need a smile, and realize how fortunate I am every day. Seeing our hard work all come together each year the day of the carnival really matters, and truly matters to each one of these families.”
“The [club] impacted me because it made me feel like I was a part of a bigger cause, and helping kids and their families that I probably will never know but will have done something to help make their dreams come true,” said senior Jordan Foy. “Working the carnival was one of the best experiences because I met so many amazing people, and I knew that everything that we were doing that day was going to go towards families and kids to make their days brighter.”
This year’s Red Bank Catholic High School benefit carnival is slated for June 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the grounds of St. James Church, 112 Broad Street, Red Bank.
For further information, or to make a donation, contact club moderator Ashleigh Kennedy at 732-615-7277 or [email protected].