Generation Dream, Middle School Club Support Those With Cancer

By DAVID BIGGY | Jun 06, 2018
Photo by: Supplied photo Southern Regional Middle School David’s Dream and Believe Club officers (from left) Tanner Drexler, Isabella English, John Bruther and Gianna Giglioli present a check to David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation Director Steve Crisalli on May 24.

Since the inception of David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation, 1,072 families affected by a cancer diagnosis have received $840,871.37 in grant funding as of May 31. In 2018 alone, 68 families have been helped through more than $62,400 in grants.

But while the financial assistance certainly makes life a little easier for many with cancer, the organization’s youth group – Generation Dream – and its affiliate clubs within the Southern Regional School District bring even more clout to the impact being made to those served by the foundation. In addition to raising some money here and there, they also make homemade cards to deliver to patients.

“What’s better than a bunch of strangers taking some time out of their day to make some cards and make somebody feel a little better?” said foundation Director Steve Crisalli, who oversees the youth movement within the organization and leads them in monthly card-making sessions at the Moose Lodge on Route 72 in Manahawkin. “The list of patients never gets short, so we never have enough cards. What they do goes a long way.”

When Crisalli and former board member Kim Manzella started Generation Dream – comprised of youngsters from 5 to 18 years old – five years ago, 17 kids showed up to make cards. The number has grown to more than 150 and each month some 40 to 50 youth volunteers spend about an hour making as many cards as possible.

“It’s simple. We use papers and markers,” Crisalli said. “It’s not a big investment, but it means a lot to the patients we serve through David’s Dream and Believe. These kids make a difference.”

Kim Manzella’s son, Kai, a Southern Regional Middle School eighth-grader, has made multiple dozens of cards since he’s been involved with Generation Dream and says it’s “fun to help others in such a simple way.”

“I just try to write something encouraging and positive,” he said. “I’m not good at drawing, but that doesn’t matter. The people we give these cards to have cancer. They don’t really care what the cards look like. It’s something everybody can do.”

Gianna Simon, a seventh-grader at the middle school and part of the SRMS David’s Dream and Believe club, was first introduced to Generation Dream by her friend Bella and she’s been hooked ever since. When the middle school club was formed in December, she was at the first meeting.

“With the club, we did a fundraiser, but we also make cards,” she said. “People who have cancer may not have much motivation and encouragement, and the cards we do lift them up and help them keep going. It’s important to do what we can to help others, and this is one of those ways.”

Middle school math teacher Beth Sicoli, who along with Marissa Reynolds advises the club, said the group was modeled after the high school’s club and the initial meeting had 150 students. During the second half of the school year, the club organized a “Penny Wars” fundraiser and conducted the fundraiser for a week. It generated $2,084 and the club’s officers – Isabella English, Tanner Drexler, John Bruther and Gianna Giglioli – presented Crisalli with a check on May 24.

“We ran it for a week and saw a lot of coins at first,” Sicoli said. “But then we saw some bills make their way into the mix, so it turned out great. The importance of our club is to teach our kids that it’s important to help others and be kind to people you don’t know. It’s all about coming together as a community and helping people.”

Many of the kids in the school clubs are part of Generation Dream as well, and that’s where the growth happens, Crisalli said.

“We started with 17 kids and it’s grown purely by word of mouth, by kids telling their friends and bringing them,” he said. “And to have a group of kids like this, coming together and doing so is simply heartwarming, it’s amazing. These kids give back, unselfishly, and it really makes somebody’s day when a package of 40 or 50 cards arrives to their home.”

Of course, Crisalli would love to see Generation Dream make a bigger impact, and it’s open to any student who wants to devote an hour per month to make a difference.

“This is about time, effort and compassion,” he said. “I don’t know if everybody has money to give, but that’s OK if you can’t. You can stop by for an hour and do a couple of cards for somebody. You don’t have to be a talented artist or write Hallmark messages. It doesn’t take a big investment to make a big difference in somebody’s life, and we’d love to have a full house every time we do this.”

For more information about Generation Dream, contact Steve Crisalli at or call 609-489-0011.

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