Teens Brighten the Holidays Two groups raise money to give gift cards to young patients in Long Island.

This past holiday season, enthusiastic teens from Teen Project and Charlie’s Champions Foundation joined together to raise $23,000 for teenage patients receiving care at NYU Langone Hospital—Long Island and NYU Langone Cancer Center for Kids–Mineola.

Teen Project, which first began in 2014, was founded by teens Steven and Matthew Spirakis, who wanted to empower local teens to give back. The Spirakis brothers have long volunteered and supported the hospital’s annual Swim-a-thon, a Child Life Program fundraiser founded by their pediatrician, Dr. Ron Marino.

We learned the hospital often receives toy donations for young patients, but seldom receives appropriate gifts for teen patients. We decided to help by collecting gift cards teens our age preferred to receive and donating them to the hospital. —Spirakis

Delaney Zander, Luke Schmitt, T. J. Schmitt, Matthew Spirakis, and Steven Spirakis present a $23,000 check to NYU Langone Health’s Heather Dall’Aste and Nicole Almeida from the online fundraiser by Teen Project and Charlie’s Champions Foundation.

The annual fundraiser has raised $80,000 in donations since its inception seven years ago. The success of the campaign is largely due to the early expansion of the Holiday Project.

In 2017, the Spirakis brothers partnered with T.J. and Luke Schmitt of Garden City–Charlie’s Champions Foundation, a prominent supporter of the Cancer Center for Kids (CCFK), which provides care to pediatric patients battling cancer and complex blood disorders. The foundation was established by the Schmitt family in honor of Charlie Schmitt, a cancer survivor who was treated at CCFK.

“We have been raising money and awareness for Charlie’s Champions Foundation since we were both in middle school and because of what we experienced firsthand with one of our cousins being treated at CCFK. The gift cards were a great idea to show the teenagers that we understood them as peers. Gift cards allow them to shop online just like we enjoy doing,” says T. J. Schmitt.

The successful fundraiser took place on NYU Langone’s Giving website, which is available to all people or groups looking for a virtual way to support any area of the hospital.

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