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Garden City-based "Teen Project" and Charlie's Champions Foundation Team up to Deliver Gift Cards to Teenagers at Winthrop
March 20, 2017

Mineola, NY – For the third year in a row, young members of the Garden City community delivered gift cards to teen patients at Winthrop-University Hospital, brightening their holidays and providing cheer that will last the Hospital year-round. This year, Steven and Matthew Spirakis, with help from another local organization, Charlie’s Champions Foundation, raised more than $8,000 in gift card donations to the Child Life Program at Winthrop and Winthrop's Cancer Center for Kids (CCFK).

Garden City-based (L.-R): Ashley Carlo, Manager of Winthrop's Cancer Center for Kids; TJ and Charlie Schmitt of Charlie’s Champions; Steven and Matthew Spirakis of Teen Project; and Nicole Almeida, MS, CCLS, Director of the Child Life Program at Winthrop. The Schmitts and Spirakises teamed up to collect gift cards for teen patients at Winthrop-University Hospital.

"The efforts of the Spirakis brothers, Charlie's Champions Foundation, and all those who supported them in their generosity towards our teenage patients, are beyond appreciated. Brightening the days of our patients come in many forms, and the thought and passion behind their drive to help is deeply appreciated," said Nicole Almeida, MS, CCLS, Director of the Child Life Program at Winthrop.

The Spirakis brothers founded "Teen Project," which has an ongoing mission to empower teens to give back and help others by participating in community service activities. When the boys heard that teenagers who had to be hospitalized at Winthrop over the holidays could use some extra cheer, they immediately got to work.

The Spirakis family has had a long relationship with Winthrop, particularly through their efforts in planning the Hospital's annual Swimathon, which benefits pediatric patients.

"In talking with Winthrop's Child Life staff, we heard that the bulk of donations the Hospital receives, like toys, are geared toward younger patients. We saw an opportunity to help teen patients' holidays be a little brighter, too," said Beth Spirakis, on behalf of her sons.

This year, Teen Project partnered with Charlie's Champions Foundation to collect their largest donation to date. They were pleased to deliver these cards to Winthrop’s Child Life Program and the CCFK, which will rely on these donations year-round to help brighten the days of teen patients in the Hospital. The gift cards range from iTunes, to Dunkin Donuts, and many other popular stores.

"We were thrilled to partner up with 'Teen Project,'" said Tara Schmitt, who founded Charlie's Champions with her husband, John, in honor of their son, Charlie, who is a cancer survivor who was treated at the CCFK. "Everyone put a lot of thought into which gift cards the kids would enjoy the most, and it was all about finding ways to brighten their days."

"Teens don't choose to stay in the Hospital," said Matthew Spirakis. "Providing gift cards is a way to make them feel special."

"We were excited to team up with Charlie's Champions Foundation and combine efforts to reach teens," added Steven Spirakis.

"I remember being a patient at the CCFK, and I loved the treats I would come home with over the holidays. The gift cards were like gold," added Charlie Schmitt. "It made you forget about the hours spent undergoing treatment. Teen Project takes their options to a whole new level, which is pretty cool!"

The campaign began in November of 2016, and the boys reached out to fellow students and teammates at the Garden City High School, the National Junior Honor Society students at the Garden City Middle School, as well as students at Candlewood Middle School in Dix Hills. The gift cards were delivered just in time for the holidays.

Winthrop's Child Life Program is dedicated to helping children understand and cope with the hospital experience. Certified Child Life Specialists utilize therapeutic play, arts and crafts, entertainment and other diversions to ensure that the hospital experience is as stress-free as possible for children and their families. A vital program across the full spectrum of inpatient, outpatient and emergency services at Winthrop, Child Life is supported in its entirety by philanthropic contributions. For more information about the Child Life Program at Winthrop, visit www.winthrop.org or call 1-866-WINTHROP.