From Left to Right, Chelsea Ortiz (Cheerleading), Nancy Galbo (Cheerleading), Cassidy Iannariello (Women’s Volleyball & Track & Field), Devin Mooney (Women’s Basketball), Jacquelyn Cali (Women’s Basketball)

Student-athletes at the College of Staten Island, spearheaded by the efforts of their Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), made sure that the holiday season spread beyond the halls of the campus, as they paid a visit to the Pediatric Unit of the Richmond University Medical Center (RUMC) to drop off dozens of toys and crafts for children in need. The Toy Drive took place within CSI Athletics over the past several weeks, and athletes representing their teams and the SAAC were on hand to meet with Child Life Specialist Rebecca Sherman to get the materials to RUMC through a series of trips to drop off materials.

“It is through continued support, from incredible friends like the ones we have at CSI, that Richmond University Medical Center is able to help each and every one of our pediatric patients feel a sense of normalcy and understanding through the familiarity of play,” said Sherman. “We cherished this support during the holiday season.”

Led by SAAC President and Women’s Volleyball and Track & Field senior Cassidy Iannariello, the connection with RUMC was a no-brainer. The Pediatric Unit admits more than 2,000 patients annually, and the toys will help bring the holiday giving season to these admitted patients at a time when others enjoy the comforts of home.

“I’ve always felt motivated to help children, especially sick children. Last year was actually the first year of the toy drive only with the Women’s Volleyball team and I really wanted to make it even bigger this year and bring in more donations,” said Iannariello, who brought the idea forward to the SAAC. “Being an EMT, I see firsthand what these kids go through and it’s really upsetting, and I know there are things that can help beside medicine. So, we decided to reach out to the pediatric unit and see if we were able to start a toy drive, and here we are today and I cannot thank everyone enough for all the donations, it really means everything to the pediatric unit.”

The SAAC, which has been involved with numerous drives and philanthropic efforts through the years, is made up of a collection of select student-athletes representing each of CSI’s 19 varsity and club athletic programs. Iannariello was overwhelmed by the response that her fellow athletes made for the effort.

“I’m so grateful for the way this outreach effort actually turned out. I wasn’t sure if we were going to get any donations, but every day when I walked into the lounge and saw the toys piling up I couldn’t help but smile,” she said.  “Just to hear that we’re making a difference to even one person, yet alone a whole pediatric unit, it truly warms my heart. We were told by a child’s father, who was in the PICU [Pediatric Intensive Care Unit], that his child had been so sad all week and every time we came in their face would just light up and it almost made me cry because it was so beautiful to see and to know that. Knowing that we put smiles on these kids’ faces, who are sick or hurt and spending their holidays in the hospital makes me so happy.”

Iannariello is confident that the model of giving will continue at CSI, even after she graduates in May. “I have many athletes coming up to me asking how did we reach out and get this started, and of course we share the information because we know someone can follow in the footsteps of giving back to the community, especially to people who need it most. Maybe next year it won’t be a toy drive but it will be something else that we can leave our mark on,” said Iannariello, who took over as SAAC President at the beginning of the school year. “I really think it’s so important for students to give back to their communities because you don’t know how someone’s day, year, or even life is going, and to know you can change someone’s path just by giving back can mean so much. You can save a life just by something as simple as giving a toy to a child.  They now know someone is looking out for them and they know that they have a team behind them and that they need to keep fighting no matter how sick they are.”

RUMC, an affiliate of The Mount Sinai Health Network accepts donations all year long. Those who are looking to continue to give can do so by contacting the Pediatrics Unit at 718.818.2863.