When Oyster Bay High School’s National Junior Honor Society was voting on which organization to raise money for this year, hands rose high for the Family Lives On Foundation, which was brought to the table by eighth-grader Matthew Carlinsky of Oyster Bay.
When he was 4, Matthew lost his mother, Lisa, to cancer. Every year since, his family has received support from Family Lives On, a nonprofit organization that provides emotional support to children who have lost a parent.
Matthew decided he wanted to help others who suffered a similar loss by raising money and awareness of the foundation that has helped him. “I feel happy to honor her memory,” he said of his late mother, “and by raising money, we’re making sure the foundation can support a lot more families, too.”
Throughout the month of March, Matthew and fellow Honor Society members will be hanging posters and making morning announcements to spread awareness about Family Lives On and the ways it has helped young people who have suffered profound loss, so they don’t grieve alone.
“I’m running this fundraiser because I want everyone to know that this organization exists and how valuable it is,” Matthew said. “I was really young when my mom passed, but through the years the Traditions Program definitely helped me cope with the loss.”
The foundation’s Tradition Program provides recipients with the opportunity to relive a special activity or tradition they used to do with their loved ones who have died. For Matthew and his mother, it was baking. Each year, the foundation provides the Carlinskys with baking supplies, so Matthew can bake cookies or cupcakes, and decorate them to celebrate his mother’s birthday.
“When I was younger, my mom and I used to cook and bake a lot,” he said. “My fondest memories were when she let me bake with her, and that was fun for me. It’s one of the things I remember the most.”
Matthew’s father, Mark, said that although Family Lives On is a nationwide organization, it has recently taken greater strides to sponsor more families locally. “The Long Island chapter sponsors four families, including us,” he said. “This year, the foundation will be able to sponsor five more families with the donations made through the Honor Society.”
Honor Society members plan to raise money by selling raffle tickets for a chance to win one of several gift baskets made by OBHS families. “It’s cool to see people stepping up, since they feel it’s a good cause,” Carlinsky said. “It’s really a community effort.”
Raffle tickets will be sold during the school day and the week of the school musical (March 23-25) for $2 each, or $5 for three. Tickets can also be purchased by emailing National Junior Honor Society adviser Antonia Woodman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Winners will be announced March 26.
“I am so proud of the efforts that Matthew has put forth in support of the Family Lives On Foundation,” said Oyster Bay High School Principal Sharon Lasher. “The donations collected will help to bring happiness to the many children who have suffered great loss in their young lives.”
Matthew added that people can donate without buying raffle tickets by way of a link on the OBHS website. He said he hoped the money raised would help expand the Traditions Program.
“It gives me a great sense of pride,” Mark Carlinsky said of his son’s selfless efforts. “This brings us all closer together as a community, and we’re not only honoring my wife, but we’re able to get funding so other families can benefit from the services [Family Lives On] provides.”