April celebrates her birthday with 'Gifts of Giving'

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  • April Roccisano has raised thousands of dollars for St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital in lieu of birthday presents over the pasat two years.

For this West Milford birthday girl, it’s about more than 'what am I going to get?' It’s also about 'what am I going to give?'

To donate to “Gifts of Giving”
Go to www.stjude.org/specialevents
Under the ‘host an event’ box find and click on ‘sponsor a participant’
Click on state of NJ on map
Type in Gifts of Giving, West Milford, NJ and find Pamela Roccisano’s name
Donations may be made until June 30, 2014

April Roccisano, who turned 11 years old in April, has just successfully raised $1,750 through her “Gifts of Giving” birthday fund raiser. Last year, she collected $1,475. That’s $3,225, all headed to finding cures and saving lives at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

“So I said one day to mom, ‘Can I do a fundraiser for my tenth birthday.’ She said yes and so it began.”
April Roccisano

According the St. Jude web site, treatments discovered at their facility since its inception 50 years ago have increased the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 to 80 percent. The hospital shares its breakthroughs world-wide, saving even more lives. Their mission is to advance cures and prevent pediatric catastrophic diseases. The cost of one day’s operation at St. Jude is a staggering $1.9 million. When a child is being cared for at the hospital, there is no charge for treatment and the family is supported in their housing, food and travel expenses, leaving them free to concentrate on their child.

Early learning
Roccisano first learned of childhood cancer when she was just six years old and a young friend suffered from the illness. As she grew older, the loss of loved ones to cancer and what she saw and heard about St. Jude on television touched her.

Last year, on her 10th birthday, she decided that she could help. This year, she continued her quest and hopes to do it every year.

“I just want other kids to feel the same joy I do every day," said April. "I wake up happy and healthy every morning and they should, too."

April is a fifth grader at Westbrook Elementary School. She plays basketball and soccer and belongs to an after-school club, the Writer’s Café. She has dealt with nut allergies since she was just a little one and hopes one day to open a nut-free bake shop. She even has the name ready to roll out – “Lots of Love Cupcakes.”

According to her mother, Pamela Roccisano, April has great affinity with children and, perhaps predictably, her other dream for the future is to become a doctor, more than likely a pediatrician.

The gifts that keep on giving

It appears that April worked out her fund raiser with some forethought. She simply asks family and friends to deduct a donation to St. Jude from the price of a gift they intend to buy her. She gets a less expensive present but she’s delighted to be able to help the hospital in its important work. Her family helped the dollar amount grow through solicitations at work and through Facebook connections. Donations may still be made to this “Gifts of Giving” event.

This year she did not have a big birthday party but enjoyed pizza and cookies with her grandparents. Mailing the check to St. Jude is her real celebration.

“I will feel so happy and proud of myself," said April. "It will be such an honor to know that this money will be going to a great cause like St. Jude’s.”

She has some wise words for other kids. “I would encourage them to do something like this by saying it’s a good cause. What if you were in their shoes?”

- Ginny Raue

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