Teen puts heart into aiding NJ Make-A-Wish

Staff Writer

 Caitlin Grassi Caitlin Grassi FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — The Make-A-Wish Foundation is gaining support from local residents.

Caitlin Grassi, 15, of Freehold Township, recently organized a bake sale to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in New Jersey. She said she raised $1,100 and presented the foundation with a check on Aug. 19.

“It was an unbelievable feeling to know that whatever I raised that day will help someone’s dream come true,” Caitlin said.

The bake sale was held on Aug. 15 at the Wine Room’s annual wine tasting event in Manalapan.

Mary Jane Grassi, Caitlin’s mother, said her daughter spent about 50 hours raising donations.

“Once she decided on doing a bake sale, she was on a mission,” Grassi said. “From start to finish, she went through every aspect of the sale and it was a lot of hard work, but it all paid off.”

Caitlin, who is a student at Colts Neck High School, said she chose to hold her bake sale at the Wine Room because her family has been making wine there for years. She said she organized the bake sale from start to finish.

“I solicited local stores and received donations from Sam’s Club, ShopRite, Wegmans and Target,” the young woman said. “We baked brownies, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, crumb cake, cookie cake, banana bread and chocolate covered pretzels.”

The Italian-American Cultural Society of New Jersey sponsored the bake sale. The society will host a fundraiser and charity event to benefit Make-A-Wish New Jersey on Nov. 7.

“We knew families that had wishes granted from Make-A-Wish,” Grassi said. “I had taken Caitlin on a tour (of the organization’s headquarters in Monroe Township) and it is just an amazing organization. What they do is incredible.”

Caitlin said although she cannot contribute to the fundraiser in November, she wanted to be able to contribute in her own way to benefit Make-A-Wish.

“My mom and I went on a tour of the Make-A-Wish (headquarters) and after going through the wish-granting process, it motivated me to raise as much money as I could to help fund a child’s wish,” she said.

Grassi said Make-A-Wish, which has its headquarters in a building that looks like a castle, “has a room where the children go in and put their wish in a box, and it is just the most moving experience. Once we went through the castle there was no way we were picking another organization.”

Nichole Mastrianni, senior director of development at Make-A-Wish New Jersey, said the money Caitlin raised will help make a wish come true for a child in the community.

“We receive many inquiries from kids and teens who want to help or volunteer with Make-A-Wish New Jersey, but Caitlin came to us with a well thought out idea, she worked hard to make it a reality and helped to not only raise funds, but spread awareness of our mission with her bake sale,” Mastrianni said.

Caitlin said the idea for a bake sale came about after she toured the castle. She said she is not old enough to volunteer there, so she wanted to do something on her own to benefit the foundation.

“When we went for a tour, there was a list of things kids can do to raise money toward granting a child’s wish,” Caitlin said. “When I saw a bake sale it just seemed like a great idea.”

Grassi said she is grateful the Wine Room was able to host the bake sale during its annual wine tasting event.

“It was a great opportunity because so many people come for the wine tasting,” she said. “So it exposed the bake sale and it was very successful.”

Mastrianni said Make-A-Wish New Jersey’s mission is granting the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.

“It humbles us when kids like Caitlin are inspired by the Make-A-Wish mission and want to raise funds to grant wishes for other children,” she said.