LIVINGSTON, NJ – When a local Girl Scout is diagnosed with Leukemia, what better way is there to support her and her family than for other Scouting units in Livingston to band together and host a blood drive and bake sale in her honor? Today, Saturday, March 29, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., St. Philomena’s Church is hosting an event entitled, “Gabby’s Gift Blood Drive,” in honor of Gabby DeFillipo, an 11-year-old Livingston student, which will benefit all patients at the Goryeb Children’s Hospital and The Valerie Fund.
Since Gabby’s parents Rob and Kim DeFillipo are both considerably involved with Livingston’s Scouting units, it shook the Scouting troops tremendously when it became known that Gabby had fallen ill. According to Cubmaster Michael Smith, one of the core values of Scouting is community service, so they “knew something had to be done in support of not only one of their most cherished families, but for other children in need as well.”
“We are hoping to make this an annual thing, so we wanted to involve as many scouts as possible,” Smith said. “And not just Girl Scouts or just Cub Scouts, but scouts in general working together on the same corner showing the community what Scouting is all about.”
According to Kim, when people wanted to know what they could do, Gabby only wanted something good to come out of all this and really only wanted to give back. In fact, it was Gabby’s idea for the community to hold a blood drive to help other people out there like her.
“If people can stop giving me stuff and can give blood and think about me when they do it, that would be good,” Gabby told her mother.
Gabby was first diagnosed with Leukemia on Jan. 22, and is currently in consolidated remission. According to her mother, the next six months will find Gabby in a series of intense and crucial treatments, but she said the hundreds of homemade cards and gifts Gabby has received from troops and friends continue to lift her spirits.
“She’s a pretty tough cookie,” Kim said. “When she got sick she was like, ‘Mom, I’m not letting this stop me.’ She has a really beautiful spirit.”
The Blood Drive portion of the event is being conducted by Atlantic Health Systems (AHS), who Smith said they turned to for certain guidance on both the physical portions as well as leg work like coming up with a name and finding a venue.
According to Assistant Cubmaster Jose Lopez, it was the family’s choice to go through AHS for this event, since they had been so beneficial toward Gabby’s sickness thus far.
“The whole idea of this is to show our support to the family since they are so involved in the community,” Lopez said. “The goal is really to support them more than anything else.”
Lopez said 75 people have already committed to giving blood and that they are expecting many more to partake in the open-door event. While the Scouting community is hoping to see various participants throughout the day, Lopez said local scouts would also play a huge part in the event by selling baked goods and handing out original “Thank You” cards.
“It is all about community service and we do something every year,” Lopez said. “So the idea is for them to give back and know that they can make an impact in their community.”
The DeFillipo family said they are very thankful to anyone who will donate at the event and to everyone who has ever donated blood because it saved their daughter’s life.
“Little did I know when I dropped Gabby off at school that day that at the end of the day she would be having a life-saving transfusion,” Kim said. “All the Scout Leaders are such a tight-knit group and we really are a family. I don’t know how we would have gotten through without all of their help.”
The Blood Drive and Bake Sale are being held at St. Philomena’s Church in the Daily Perish Center, sponsored by NJ Troop 16, Livingston Pack 16 and Livingston’s Girl Scouts. Those interested in supporting the family may visit GabbysGift.AHSBloodDonorServices.org or http://www.livingstonpack16.org/GabbysGift/GabbysGift.pdf for scheduling or more details.