CJ Cascio, 17, started collecting birthday party favors in December. Now his living room is filled with packages full of all things birthday.
To get to his dinner table, where he does his homework, Cascio needs to walk past his living room, which has been turned into a impromptu warehouse, as evidenced by the stacks of boxes and drawstring bags full of food and party decorations around the perimeter of the room. He’s taken it upon himself to collect, organize and distribute these items for his Eagle Scout project, called Celebrate You.
Cascio, a Baldwin High School senior and a member of Boy Scout Troop 824, partnered with Feed Long Island and Donate Anything, a Facebook group dedicated to feeding underprivileged families in Nassau County, and the group’s administrator, Lorrie Prager, to collect items for children’s birthday parties — cakes, icing, candles and everything else necessary for first-class birthday celebrations.
“The thing I took most from being in the Boy Scouts is leadership,” Cascio said. “How to make the right choices, not only for yourself, but also for other people.”
Celebrate You is the first Feed Long Island and Donate Anything imitative aimed at providing underprivileged families everything they need to host birthday parties for their children.
“As a kid, we always look forward to our birthdays, and I thought it was particularly sad that some kids can’t have a birthday party for financial reasons,” Cascio said. “My job is to give them a birthday.”
Feed Long Island and Donate Anything helps South Shore families in need in a number of ways. Members of the organization have shopped for groceries for the needy and elderly, collected school supplies for children and donated gifts on Christmas and Easter. Cascio got in touch with Prager in December.
Prager, of Rockville Centre, has worked with Brooke Diamond, the founder of Feed Long Island and Donate Anything, since March 2020, collecting and distribute donations to those in need in Nassau County. Prager has also known Cascio and his family since he was in kindergarten, and wasn’t surprised when she heard about his project.
“I was humbled and impressed, but not surprised,” Prager said. “This is who CJ and his family are.”
Prager said that Cascio reached out to her to ask for her assistance on the project, and to help him distribute the bags of birthday party favors. Families in need, she said, can apply to receive a bag on Feed Long Island’s Facebook page, and if they qualify, Cascio and Prager make the delivery.
Cascio said that when he was thinking about his Eagle Scout project, initially planned to raise funds for victims of the war in Ukraine, but he liked the idea of helping children in his community better.
Helping the less fortunate is a value that scouting and his family instilled in him, he added.
Since he started Celebrate You, he has been reaching out to community members, friends and family members to help him collect and organize donated materials.
He visited Hangout One Happy Place on Jan. 24, a Baldwin nonprofit that provides recreational activities for people of all abilities, and its founder, Angela Lucas, to ask for their help in collecting donations. He left an empty bag at Hangout headquarters, and at press time, its collection of cake mix, icing and other birthday supplies was growing.
Cascio said he found the most success in collecting donations when he created an Amazon Wish List, which encourages people to buy items from a list that can be delivered directly to him.
His mother, Kimberly Cascio, said the project has grown so large, and the community has been so supportive, that they haven’t needed to reach out to any other organizations to help raise donations.
The next step in the project, CJ said, is to collect all of the donated items in pre-packaged party bags. He said he now plans on spending his time organizing the donated items into drawstring bags — filled with everything you need for a party — which can be distributed to families in need.