Sarah Maisano earns NCEA’s prestigious Virtues, Valor and Visions Award
WARREN — What started as a holiday fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital turned into an expanding charity with a nationwide impact.
Sarah Maisano was a freshman at Warren Regina High School in 2014, hosting a fundraising party at her house in which she asked guests to bring gifts to be donated to St. Jude’s.
After an initial success, Maisano expanded, registering as a 501(c)3 nonprofit “S.K.I.P (Supporting Kids in Pain),” an organization that helps hospitalized children by gifting them bags with games, puzzles, crayons, coloring books and jump rope.
For her dedication to helping children in need and showing remarkable organizational skills, Maisano — now a senior at Regina — was awarded the National Catholic Educational Association’s 2017 Virtues, Valor and Vision Award.
Maisano received the award Jan. 30 at Regina High School from Andrea Kopp, manager of education resources for the NCEA.
“When I found out I won the award, I believe it was around November when I knew I was nominated for it, I was very excited,” said Maisano, a parishioner at St. Michael Parish in Sterling Heights. “We’ve sent out over 4,000 bags. Our goal is to donate to one children’s hospital in all 50 states. So far, we’ve made it to 12.”
More than 150 students from around the country were nominated for the Virtues, Valor and Vision Award, with only 10 being recognized. Two of the honorees — Maisano and Novi Detroit Catholic Central freshman Caleb White — are from the Archdiocese of Detroit.
S.K.I.P. works with the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Girls Scouts of America and the Ronald McDonald House, among others. After getting some help from her cousin in forming a 501(c)3 in order to receive corporate donations, Maisano and her mom went to work, making 1,000 tote bags filled with items to be donated to children’s hospitals.
Maisano noted she isn’t motivated by the recognition, but it’s nice to receive outside validation for her project.
“I don’t do it for the awards, I don’t need the recognition,” Maisano said. “But the awards help you see the good you do. I love doing what I do and helping others, and doing it day to day, you sometimes don’t’ realize how much you do.”
S.K.I.P. recently hosted a 5K and receives donations through its website, www.skipforkids.org. The nonprofit doesn’t have any paid staff, and Maisano said 100 percent of the donations goes to the purchase of the hand-sewn bags and supplies to fill the bag.
“Sarah’s business acumen is impressive enough, but what really stood out to me when I was reading Sarah’s application materials and glowing letters of recommendation is how she inspired first her peers and her family and then members of the community to practice these works of mercy to comfort the sick,” Kopp said. “Sarah, you’re a beautiful witness to the faith.”
Maisano, who’s charity has been featured in The Michigan Catholic and Macomb Daily, last week was named a state honoree of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award as one of 101 applicants remaining out of 31,000 applicants. In May she’ll find out if she’s a finalist.
In the meantime, she hopes to expand S.K.I.P. internationally and start the Make a Difference Challenge, where she’ll be challenging people to make a difference in the lives of other people, whether it’s something big or small.
Upon graduation from Regina this spring, Maisano plans to attend Oakland University in the fall and to continue to strive towards helping others.
“I’m in the process of writing a book, and I’m hoping to become a public speaker in the future,” Maisano said. “I want to motivate others to make a difference in the world. It doesn’t take much to make a big difference for someone else.”
S.K.I.P. (Supporting Kids in Pain)
To help Maisano with her vision of expanding S.K.I.P. to all 50 states, visit www.skipforkids.org/donate.