MONTVILLE, NJ – Joe Signorella, a fifth grader at Cedar Hill Elementary School in Towaco, wanted to come up with a great idea for his Treps marketplace booth. Treps is an afterschool program that teaches the students how to run a business: advertising, pricing, financing. But first you have to come up with your product or service.

Joe had some ideas, like selling soccer balls since he plays soccer, and then he thought of homework passes.

“But my teachers would only let me sell them for spelling homework,” he said.

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His mom Marisa had inspiration from the game Pie in the Face, in which a hand-cranked contraption throws a whipped cream pie at the unsuspecting loser’s face. Joe liked the idea and asked Principal Michael Raj for approval, which he obtained. But he didn’t want to just keep his profits.

Joe had learned when he was young that his friend Paul Kounouklos’ father Anthony had a genetic disease called Cooley’s Anemia. Paul and his family had been walking in fundraisers for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation and Joe wanted to do his share to help out, deciding to donate his profits to the foundation.

Anthony Kounouklos told TAPinto Montville that Cooley’s Anemia is a disease in which the blood has abnormal hemoglobin. He lost his brother to the disease at age 21 he said. He’s had to go for blood transfusions every three weeks since birth, and subsequently must take chelation drugs to draw out the excess iron. There currently is no cure. However, he said stem cell therapy is making strides towards a cure.

Who’s Getting Pied?

As part of the Treps advertising lesson, the students make posters which they display on the cafeteria wall, and when Joe’s friends saw his idea for his booth, he says they told him “I’d throw a pie at you!”

But Joe had another surprise up his sleeve.

Joe sent out a letter to the teachers at the school, asking if they’d be willing to have pies thrown at them, too. Teachers Fran Work and Kevin Haugh agreed.

Then Joe and Marisa got to work testing the booth. Joe set the pricing at $2 per pie, or 3 for $5. They turned a tri-fold project display board into the “target” by cutting a face-shaped hole. Then they experimented with paper plates and whipped cream.

“You had to use a heavy paper plate,” Joe said, “otherwise it buckled.”

“And you had to make a concentrated pile of the whipped cream, otherwise the plate didn’t fly as far,” Marisa said with a laugh. “His younger sister enjoyed pieing him!”

The day of the Treps marketplace, Joe said, Work stayed for a few minutes but Haugh stayed for about a half hour and the kids loved throwing the whipped cream pies at him.  But most of the kids loved throwing pies at Joe himself.

“My friend Nick got it in my hair and my shirt got soaked,” Joe said with a laugh. “He had his own Treps booth, and brought over his own whipped cream and added to what was already on the plate! Towards the end, I got swamped with customers and a bunch bought four pies each!”

Joe said Anthony came and joined in the fun of getting pied too, and even Joe’s own dad.

“People got to throw or just push the pie in my face – it was always a win for them,” Joe said, laughing.

Cleaning up that much whipped cream was pretty tough, though, he said.

“I was so sticky I could barely pull off my apron! It was so disgusting to try to get the whipped cream out of my ears,” Joe said.

Paul had a booth at Treps, too, and Joe said that he inspired Paul to donate to the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation, too.

Anthony was very touched by Joe’s gesture, he said. He’s known Joe since Paul and Joe were young since the two were in Cub Scouts together.

“I was surprised to hear that Joe wanted to donate to the foundation,” Anthony said. “It’s the kind of thing most parents would encourage but he’s an exceptional young man to do this as his own idea. I thought it’s great and I’ll get behind there and people can throw pies at my face. We had a great time! It was awesome. I did it for about ten minutes but Joe did it for an hour and a half!

“It speaks to his character for him to have pies thrown at him, and for the teachers to help [was great].  He’s an outstanding young man.”

Joe said that “Paul’s mom and dad were very happy and they thanked me very much. It was a fun time!”

He figures he will be donating about $100 to the foundation.

“I hope they find a cure,” he said.

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