By Nikki Schwenk
Students of Manhasset High School Interact Club have been working hard throughout this year to raise funds to in order to make a difference. Like years past, the club’s ultimate objective has been to assist families as they struggle with the financial, as well as emotional conflicts associated with their child’s diagnosis of the severe heart condition called Atrial Septal Defect (ASD). When a child is diagnosed with this disease, it means he or she has a hole in their heart, and if not corrected they are often only given a few months to live.
The Interact Club, along with the surgeons at St. Francis Hospital, provide hope and a second chance at life. Usually, these children wouldn’t have access to surgery of this nature at home, so Manhasset Secondary students feel fortunate to be able to assist these families and see the difference we make first hand. This year the child Manhasset was lucky enough to sponsor is a seven-year-old girl from Kosovo named Aurita. She flew to the United States at the beginning of April and the Interact Club members eagerly awaited her arrival.
The Interact Club has been able to reach its financial fundraising goal of $5,000 through a number of activities. Many basketball fans may have seen us selling customized Manhasset hair ties and air fresheners at recent varsity sport games. Club members have also worked as gift wrappers at Lord & Taylor on Northern Boulevard and gone caroling around the community during the holiday season. But, one of the club’s most successful and favorite events has been the Interact Club’s weekly “Pizza Thursdays.” Like many of the children who the Manhasset Interact Club has helped in the past, five from all different parts of the world, one of Manhasset students favorite foods is pizza. Every Thursday, the Interact Club sells Manhasset’s very best, Villa Milano pizza, after school and the pies always sell out in minutes.
Technology Brings World Together
Recently, the members of the Interact Club were lucky enough to Skype with Aurita and Esme, a child with ASD that is being sponsored, and the students spoke about Aurita’s exciting trip to the states. The family of Esme joined Aurita’s family in Kosovo since their homes are so close to each other. Their families and the club members were able to “interact” and laugh about a common interest, ask questions and get to know each other.
This was a unique experience for the club because in the five years it has been raising funds, they never before had the chance to meet the child before they arrived at the airport in the United States.
At the end of the call, Aurita’s father spoke of his immense gratitude for the Interact students and shared a few insightful words. Acts of kindness like these are what bring “big countries like USA” and “small countr[ies] like Kosovo” together. The earnest work of the students involved in Manhasset’s Interact Club proves that teenagers are making the world a better place and we will continue to celebrate the similarities in all human lives.
Dr. Vincent Butera is proud of the work of the Interact Club. “This project is an opportunity for students to see beyond themselves and make an important impact on a child’s life.”
Nikki Schwenk is a Manhasset High School student and Interact Club treasurer.