Motivated to help, girls bake, make Easter baskets for shelter families


Some girls are content playing pretend bake sale with their best friends, but 11-year-old Olivia DeGaetano and 7-year-old Cyara Villa decided they wanted to do more. They held a bake sale and used the proceeds to buy items for the RI Family Shelter, along with Easter baskets for the kids living there.

Friends and neighbors for the past five years, Olivia and Cyara, who both attend Greenwood Elementary, are always playing together. Cyara’s mom Khristina said the girls printed up flyers advertising a bake sale for charity and Cyara handed them out to her classmates, without telling her mom.

Then Khristina began to get calls from parents asking what time the bake sale was. It was too late.

“We couldn’t say no to a good deed,” said Khristina.

So Khristina and Olivia’s mom, Christina, got to work with their girls putting together different items such as cupcakes, chocolate-covered treats and more to sell at the bake sale, which was on Sunday, April 6. The girls even made sure each item was individually wrapped. Some of their friends and friends’ moms decided to help out, baking even more items.

Olivia’s brother Jack and his friend Brandon Rooney did their part, riding their bikes throughout the neighborhood to let everyone know the bake sale was happening. The mothers also put the event on their social networking pages to spread the word to friends and family.

On the day of the bake sale, Olivia and Cyara donned their matching outfits and, with the help of some friends, made $170 for their cause in less than three hours. They just had to determine what that cause was.

“We knew we wanted to donate it somehow. We decided to call the shelter and see if they had any kids we could make Easter baskets for,” said Olivia.

Khristina and Christina wanted the girls to have a hands-on experience with their donation. So when they contacted the RI Family Shelter to find out what items they needed, they also asked if the girls would be able to visit the facility.

“We also learned a lot about the shelter,” said Olivia. “It was really interesting to see.”

They were able to visit with families last week while dropping off supplies from the needs list. Using a portion of the money they raised, Olivia and Cyara purchased almost one of everything on the RI Family Shelter’s needs list, which includes household items such as detergent, toilet paper, diapers and other items.

“Those two little girls got almost everything on our needs list. They were determined,” said Barbara Quagan, manager at RI Family Shelter.

“This is a lesson, but it’s a hands-on way. They didn’t know. Actually seeing it opens their eyes,” said Khristina.

The girls enjoyed getting to see the shelter, and Quagan said the people at the shelter enjoyed it just as much.

“They wanted to meet the children. Everybody wanted them to come into the dining room. Everyone was thanking them for everything they’d done,” said Quagan, adding that her office was filled with all of the items they donated.

But the girls aren’t going to stop there. They used the remaining funds (plus a little more from their parents) to put together Easter baskets for the children living in the shelter.

“We always have stuff when the Easter Bunny comes to our house. They are less fortunate and won’t have as much as we do,” said Olivia.

So while on their tour, Olivia and Cyara made a list of how many kids were living in the shelter and their ages; there are 13 ranging between 15 months and 14 years old.

On Friday, Olivia and Cyara went out to do some shopping, picking up a variety of items to create a semi-personalized basket for each kid, filled with age-appropriate items. Items included bubbles, puzzles, coloring books, stickers, temporary tattoos, cards, stationary, crafts and more. Jack and Brandon helped out once again, picking out items for the boy baskets.

Olivia and Cyara even donated some of their own unopened toys to the baskets to fill them more.

Along with their moms, the girls visited the shelter again on Saturday to deliver the baskets before the holiday.

Quagan could not be happier about what she saw.

“It was just a blessing,” she said. “I was touched because of their age and how excited they were.”

Both mothers are so proud that their girls not only wanted to do something to help people who are facing hard times, but they are even more proud that they came up with it on their own.

“I’m overwhelmed with the kindness and generosity they showed,” said Christina.

Both Olivia and Cyara are hoping to continue volunteering with their parents at the shelter.

“I wanted to see if we could help them with chores or cooking or other ways,” said Olivia.


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