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February 06, 2013

Ariana DeMattei: Ahead Of The Pack



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Lots of kids undertake "Mitzvah projects" in the months leading up to their Bar or Bat Mitzvahs. Few, however, are taking on anything as large scale as Ariana DeMattei is.

A student at Westhampton Beach Middle School, she's creating an entire program that she hopes to some day bring to neighboring schools. Called "Backpacks For Fellow Students," the program's goal is to help elementary school children who are unable to purchase basic school essentials to start the 2013/2014 school year with the same supplies as other children. Ariana hopes to assemble 50 packs filled with the required supplies for kids in grades Kindergarten through fifth by the start of school next September.

Already, the seventh grader said, she's been "shocked and amazed," by the willingness of others to help out. From local merchants to big chains like Staples, Office Max, and Office Depot to a family friend who helped craft a professional press release, "They put me at the top of their list and jumped at the chance to help me. I love their enthusiasm. At a time when so many people are effected by the economy . . . it's making me overjoyed," Ariana enthused.

The Westhampton Beach school district already provides assistance to children of struggling families, through such programs as a lowered school lunch cost. Though "you can't really tell" which students receive the benefits, the 12-year-old noted "I know so many people in my own backyard and my community who need help." BFFS, she believes, will remove one burden from the WHB district and "give the school the chance to take care of what they need to."

A Bat Mitzvah is a coming of age ritual for young Jewish girls. The process often calls upon children to do good deeds. "We're encouraged to do projects to help our community, like a random act of kindness for a person or a group of people that are close to you, or for an issue that's meaningful for you," Ariana explained. The BFFS project combines Ariana's interest in education and children, along with the Jewish mitzvah of tikkun olam, which focuses on repairing the world.

To help achieve her goal, Ariana created a "wish list" on Amazon.com. Supporters can find the BFFS registry on the site, and contribute that way. They could also bring donations, or checks, to the Jewish Center of the Hamptons in East Hampton, which has agreed to act as an intermediary and a collection site.

A seventh grader at Westhampton Beach Middle School, Ariana's no stranger to community service. She's volunteered with Maureen's Haven, the East End homeless outreach agency, and "done small things to help other organizations." But she's never taken on a mission of such magnitude. "Starting my own program is way out of my comfort zone," she said. Still, she's got a mind for business, and plans to hold several fundraisers between now and next September – a polar plunge, sports clinic for kids, movie night, and raffles among them.

"I hope I can help," Ariana said in a voice filled with enthusiasm. "Children and education are important to me. They're both such a big part of our future."

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

  1. print email
    Ahead of the Pack
    February 11, 2013 | 06:13 AM

    Thank you for your inspiring article about an inspiring kid whose got her values straight! It's heartwarming to know that there are still privileged children with not only big hearts, but the willingness to do what is needed to help others to have as much as they have. And to help fifty others is profoundly inspiring! Bravo to Ariana, her parents, teachers, and mentors!



    Sunny Massad, Ph.D.
  2. print email
    Ariana's Backpacks
    February 19, 2013 | 06:34 PM

    By getting out of your "comfort zone" and achieving great work, you are a model to us all, old and young.
    Look forward to meeting you one day.
    MH

    Marie Helene Morrow
  3. print email
    Congratulations Ariana !
    February 20, 2013 | 07:20 AM

    Great inspiring project!

    Kathy Levine
  4. print email
    Ahead of the Pack
    February 20, 2013 | 07:28 AM

    Ariana,

    Congratulations for developing this wonderful and beneficial project.

    I am sure It will continue to grow and assist many more students in the future!

    Seth Levine



    Seth Levine
  5. print email
    Ahead of the Pack
    February 28, 2013 | 04:25 PM

    Ariana'

    I haven't had the pleasure of meeting you but your dad is a friend of mine and was telling me all about your wonderful project. You should be so proud of yourself as this is just great !

    Mazel Tov

    Jeffrey Sparr

    jeffrey sparr
  6. print email
    Ahead of the pack
    March 20, 2013 | 04:47 PM

    Dear Ariana;

    This comes as no surprise to us because
    we know you are your parents daughter.

    There is a Jamaica saying that "the chip never falls far from the block"

    Ariana we love you and so proud of you. please keep up the good work,
    God bless you.

    Valerie,Hugh,Shanique Shanel





    valerie
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