Diane Tedesco was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in April of 2010. Although the illness forced her to resign from her position at the Madison County Health Department, she has been keeping busy.
Tedesco is the lead organizer behind “Be A Giver Of Hope,” a project that aims to provide simple comforts to runaways and homeless teenagers staying at the Booth House in Syracuse.
“It’s a big thing for the kids to feel that there is someone thinking of them, that someone cares,” Tedesco said. “The success I’ve experienced already, just through thank-you notes the kids have written and verbal response, has been amazing. The community has been so generous in donating; it’s really a heartwarming thing.”
Through BAGOH, Tedesco donates “Bags of Hope” to less-fortunate children. Each bag contains a stuffed animal and blanket, as well as an inspirational book or bible and a notebook for journaling, an activity Tedesco said has helped her through her own difficult times. The bags are given to kids ages 12 to 17, as there are no social services available to them.
“The bag itself represents ownership and security. The stuffed animal and blanket is included for comfort. A journal is included because writing has really helped me, and I think it’s advantageous for the kids,” Tedesco said. “The inspirational book is meant to uplift the children and give them strength and hope if they’re ever feeling down. We just want the kids at the Booth House to know that they’re not forgotten.”
Formed this past January, BAGOH is comprised of a handful of Tedesco’s friends and family members. Her husband Thomas, and children Anthony, Nicholas and Danielle have all taken a hand in collecting items. Drives at Burton Street Elementary and monetary donations have helped Tedesco donate about 40 bags of hope to the Booth House. She hopes to secure about 140 more bags for the teens by the end of September, when she will undergo a bone marrow transplant.
“While I’m recovering, I still want the kids to be able to receive their bags of hope. I’m trying to get at least six months worth of bags ready for them. That works out to about 180. I’d really love to get a year’s worth.” Tedesco said. “What I’m asking for, with this time frame, is increased involvement from the community. I’d love to know this project is continuing while I’m recuperating.”
Tedesco said she first conceived the idea in 2005, and put her plan into action after attending the memorial service for former Cazenovia volunteer firefighter and bus driver Ralph Sparks in October. During the gathering, a young boy from the religious education class Tedesco taught at St. James Catholic Church asked her if she had starting making her “bags” yet, and she perceived the circumstance as a sign from above. The following day, she began collecting items to donate.
The Booth House shelters about 250 teenagers annually. Run by the Salvation Army, with funding by the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York state and United Way, the organization protects teenagers fleeing dysfunctional homes.
Anyone interested in getting involved with the Bag of Hope initiative can contact Greg Meitus, Public Relations and Marketing Manager for The Salvation Army at 479-1337 or firstname.lastname@example.org. It is possible to sponsor a bag anonymously, or in the name of a loved one for $25.
A donation bin has also been set up at Common Grounds in Cazenovia for anyone who wishes to drop off approved items.
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or email@example.com.