By Sarah Vander Schaaff
Parents such as Jean and John Gianacaci are examples to many of us in how to love a child. They lost their daughter, Christine Gianacaci, in January 2010, when an earthquake destroyed the hotel she and fellow students from Lynn University were staying in the country of Haiti.
Instead of looking at the trip as the end of their 22-year-old daughter’s life, they express her journey and ultimate death as a culmination and fulfillment of her calling, “…in her short life, Christine achieved something many of us never achieve; she found a purpose and a calling that gave her true happiness and purpose. She died doing what she was meant to do. She died doing what she loved.”
For the young woman from Hopewell, New Jersey, the desire to help children in need became a passion after a trip to Jamaica her sophomore year.
Her own life had not been without isolation. From the age of 11 to the end of high school, Christine suffered from the effects of Tourette’s Syndrome. Her parents describe that phase as one during which she became more quiet, shy, and sensitive to the power of teasing.
Perhaps, as many hardships do, however, it increased her compassion for others and, ultimately, her passion for missionary work.
Today, Christine’s parents are fully committed to their daughter’s calling with a thriving foundation created in her honor five years ago this month. Christine’s Hope for Kids (CHFK) raises money to help less fortunate children and to support local community agencies that work with or benefit children in need.
The foundation is also the first organization in Mercer County to be selected as the 2014-2015 NJ Association of Student Council’s State Charity of the Year.
Christine’s mother, Jean said of that distinction, “These kids are the next generation of community leaders. If we can facilitate the spirit of volunteering at a young age…they will carry it on.”
CHFK is honoring its five-year anniversary with a specific campaign this month: Five for Five. With a contribution of $100, donors can support the foundation via the purchase of a package of five celebratory notecards. Each package contributes to supporting five different children. Donors can then use the notecards to tell a recipient that a donation has been made to the foundation in their name.
While much of the organization’s focus is in New Jersey, the foundation also has a small group based in Florida near Lynn University. As Jean Gianacaci said, “There is need everywhere.” The organization has reached tens of thousands of children, ” …those that received the services and goods and the kids that volunteer and experience the joy of giving back,” she added.
If you’d like to get a sense of who Christine was, and the spirit her parents celebrate through their foundation’s work, I invite you to take a look at the CHFK website. There are opportunities to read more about the foundation, learn how to donate or purchase the “Five for Five” gift cards, as well as short videos.
One of the hardest things as a parent, I believe, is to keep an open heart in the face of tragedy or with the perception that the world is a dangerous place. Jean and John Gianacaci are reminders that love is always stronger than fear.
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Learn more at the website and watch the video: click here.