Christine’s Hope for Kids

Students at Hopewell Elementary School display bags they helped pack for underpriviledged children.

Helping Children in Need One Smile at a Time

By Laurie Pellichero | Photography Courtesy of Christine’s Hope for Kids

Christine Marie Gianacaci

Every child deserves the chance to be a kid, regardless of their circumstances. That’s the philosophy behind Christine’s Hope for Kids, a nonprofit organization founded in 2010 by John and Jean Gianacaci of Hopewell in honor of their late daughter, Christine.

In January of 2010, 22-year-old Christine Gianacaci and several of her classmates from Lynn University in Florida were in Haiti on a mission to help children in need and feed the poor. It was a cause to which Christine was deeply devoted, especially after a transformative first trip to Jamaica in her sophomore year where she had seen the poorest of the poor and helped to build houses, feed sick children, and deliver clothes and toys.

She was doing the same in Haiti when a catastrophic earthquake struck on January 12. The Hotel Montana in Port-Au-Prince collapsed and Christine, along with three other Lynn students and two professors, was killed.

In the wake of this tragedy, Christine’s Hope for Kids was created to continue the legacy and generous spirit of Christine, and her desire to help underprivileged children and kids with difference.

Through raising money, collecting item donations, and working closely with other area nonprofit organizations, Christine’s Hope is dedicated to giving disadvantaged children in the community a better life. They are also helping to create the next generation of community leaders by teachings kids how to help other kids.

The mission of Christine’s Hope for Kids is to help less fortunate children; and to support local community agencies to work with and benefit children in need. Whether they are supporting children to attend camp, holding book fairs, or packing pajama bags for kids in shelters, they believe that it is the little things that can and do make the greatest impact in a child’s life.

Christine’s Hope is committed to not only to providing funds to local programs, but also to offering opportunities for young students to become involved and teach them “the power of giving and how to be good stewards to the community.”

Some of the nonprofit organizations they support include Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mercer County, the Boys and Girls Club of Trenton and Mercer County, Capital Area YMCA, Children’s Home Society of Mercer County, CYO of Mercer, Gregory School,  HomeFront, Hopewell Valley YMCA, Kidsbridge, Mercer Street Friends, Millhill Child & Family Development, The Miracle League of Mercer County, PEI Kids, Princeton Junior Football League, Princeton Nursery School, Princeton YMCA, One Simple Wish, Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK), and Womanspace, among many others.

John and Jean Gianacaci with their granddaughter, Jocelyn.

“We strongly believe that all children, regardless of their life circumstances, deserve to have a happy and healthy childhood,” says Jean Gianacaci. “We also work to educate and empower children to help one another and to understand the importance of a life of giving.”

In keeping with this positive concept, Christine’s Hope hosts school events and programs that allow young students to directly help less fortunate kids in the community. Programs include Book Collections, Book Fairs, Backpack Drives, and Pajama Days at area schools to help pack necessity bags for children in shelters.

As noted on its website, “It’s heartbreaking to see how many children in our community do not have access to books or safe libraries. Our Book Fair program is set up in several schools and businesses. People bring in their gently used, unwanted children’s books and we take them to kids who need them and host book fairs. It’s simple, but the smiles we see when these kids get their free books are priceless.”

With Pajama Days, students who raise donations get to wear their pajamas to school all day long. Christine’s Hope will match the donations dollar for dollar (up to $3,000), and the money is used to purchase pajamas, books, stuffed animals, toothpaste, and toothbrushes to be assembled by the students into pajama bags and distributed to kids who need them.

“We are most proud of our kids helping kids programs,” says Jean Gianacaci. “Giving kids the opportunity to give back and help others is so important to learn at a young age. This is the next generation of community volunteers. It amazes us how kids respond in such a positive way, they love being part of it.

“Many children have organized collections on their own for us, given us their birthday money, and come in to our office to help pack bags for kids in shelters and at-risk homes. This is who we are as an organization.”

And through the Christine’s Hero program, they promote the message that each person has the power to make this world better through simple acts of kindness and basic respect.

When Christine’s Hope for Kids was founded in 2010, its goal was to gift out $1 million in donations and goods in 10 years. They are thrilled to report that this goal was met this past summer, thanks to generous community supporters.

“We have donated out to local organizations that help kids in need more than $1 million to date,” says Jean Gianacaci. “The support from our community, our loyal supporters, and our dedicated volunteers has been both heartwarming and overwhelming. Tens of thousands of local children have benefited in some way from our foundation.”

As the 10th anniversary of Christine’s Hope for Kids approaches in February, they plan to donate $10,000 to local organizations to commemorate the day. The Gianacaci family will also attend a memorial service at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, on January 12, as they do every year.

Also in honor of the 10-year mark, the organization is planning some new events to raise money for children in need throughout the community. They offer a variety of programs that you, your family, your neighbors, your company, or your church can get involved with that don’t require donation dollars.

The only requirement is a smile, and willingness to lend a hand.

To learn more about Christine’s Hope for Kids, volunteer, or make a donation, call (609) 406-7861 or visit www.christineshope.org.