SOMERS, N.Y. - The “Stephanie Crispinelli Comfort Kit” factory was in full force last Friday, as two first-grade classes at Primrose Elementary School completed more than 100 care packages that will be distributed to displaced children in the Hudson Valley area.
Crispinelli, who devoted her life to helping others, attended Primrose and graduated from Somers schools in 2008. She was killed in a 2010 Haiti earthquake at the age of 19 while on a humanitarian mission. In her memory, Crispinelli’s family enlisted the help of the American Red Cross and Primrose first-graders to spend a few hours each year assembling care packages filled with no-sew blankets, pillows and pillow cases, books and more. The annual event is now in its sixth year.
“Kids helping kids is really powerful,” said Linda Crispinelli, Stephanie’s mother, who also founded the Stephanie Crispinelli Humanitarian Fund to continue her daughter’s mission. She often tells people that: “Stephanie’s not here to change the world, so we have to do it for her.”
Linda met with the first-grade classes of Patty Jo Kegler and Kim Laurie a few days before the “Comfort Kit” event, telling them about her daughter and what she did. Linda said it’s important for the students to learn the difference between need and want. For many, it appears the lesson sunk in.
“It’s just so simple to help people of need in the community,” said Brendan Carlin, a first-grade student in Kegler’s class. Brendan added that he sometimes takes his excess toys and offers them for free to anybody who needs one.
His classmate, Derek Kuchinsky, is also happy to carry on Stephanie Crispinelli’s giving spirit.
“Stephanie was a helper and her mother and grandmother and father wanted to carry on her tradition,” Derek said. “If I was her father, I would be very proud.”
Lenny Crispinelli, her father, said he is indeed very proud of his daughter and the charity her name inspires.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “The kids are just so enthusiastic.”
The no-sew blankets, purchased from JoAnne Fabric at a discounted price, can be difficult for a first-grader to tie together, Lenny said. If they struggle, they will be given another task.
“Everybody wants to do something,” he said.
The event is held every year around Valentine’s Day for a number of reasons, Linda said: It is a holiday dedicated to spreading love, the date is in close proximity to Stephanie’s birthday (Jan. 15) and, because of the cold weather, there is a high demand for blankets.
“The likelihood of these being gone in two days is 100 percent,” said Abigail Adams, a regional communications officer for the Red Cross.
Linda said her daughter was always hand-crafting gifts, such as blankets, to give to her friends.
“We tried to incorporate things that would radiate her spirit,” she said.
After the event, the students helped load the care packages onto Red Cross emergency response vehicles. The “Comfort Kits” are then distributed to children who have been displaced due to a fire, domestic abuse or other reasons.
“For the kids to have this, it makes all the difference,” Adams said. “It’s immediate comfort in a crisis.”
Adams said she is continually amazed at the amount of people who volunteer their time for the event every year, including former teachers and friends of Stephanie.
“Stephanie was amazing,” Adams said. “In such a short time, she touched so many people.”