The Old Tappan school district raised $2,174 on Oct. 7 for a “Day of Gold,” during which students and faculty were encouraged to bring in a few dollars to help raise money for Josephine’s Garden Fund, which helps pediatric cancer research by supporting the Josephine Elle Hartung-Rispoli research lab.
Old Tappan Education Association President Matt Capilli said he heard about the fundraiser and reached out to its organizer, Heidi Hartung-Rispoli, about holding an event in the school district.
“It went great – everyone really participated,” Capilli said. “A lot of the comments were that kids were saying they went and took $3 from their piggy bank to donate.”
The fundraiser was a great cause because it was a local cause, he added.
“Unfortunately cancer is something that affects everybody it seems lately,” he said. “We wanted to participate in something that would be beneficial at least locally.”
Josephine Hartung-Rispoli was 6 years old when she was diagnosed with a stage four brain tumor in 2010, her mother Heidi said, and endured more than 250 days in the hospital over a 13-month period.
During her battle against cancer, she and her mother began talking about building a garden at the hospital because of Josephine’s love for playing outside.
The idea soon became a reality as her mother acquired a space at the hospital, but Josephine lost her battle in 2011 before the project was completed.
“When she died, I said, ‘I have to do this,'” Hiedi said. “I designed and conceptualized it, but through the help of the community we were able to get funding.”
Josephine’s story continues today as Heidi continuously fundraises for Josephine’s Garden Fund.
The amount of money raised by the Old Tappan school district will be matched by Eli Manning, who agreed to donate as part of his work with the “Tackle Kids Cancer” program at HackensackUMC – an initiative started by the Children’s Cancer Institute that raises funds and awareness for pediatric cancer patients.
The program benefits all pediatric patients at the hospital, said Vice President of Strategic Activation Peter Hughes.
He added Manning believes in supporting raising money for cancer research and has donated his time.
“Josephine’s Garden has a specific charter – Eli considers it part of one big family [with Tackle Kids Cancer],” Hughes said.
Prior to its inception at Old Tappan, only Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Park Ridge participated in the “Day of Gold.”
The Old Tappan Education Association hopes that the fundraiser will become an annual event, and wants to see more schools in the Northern Valley participate, Capilli added.
“It was a worthwhile endeavor for us,” he said.
Heidi also hopes more schools will participate in “Day of Gold.”
“My goal is to get a ‘Day of Gold’ at every school in Bergen County in September or October for Josephine’s Garden,” Heidi said. “Because cancer happens to children, there’s no money [for research] really and that’s what we need.”