Fort Mill Times

Tega Cay kids help neighbors rebuild lives

Nicholas Greek, 9, and brothers Zachary, 7, and William, 11, accept gift baskets and more than $600 in cash and gift cards from Hand-N-Hand, a group that formed during spring break to raise money to help the Greek family after their two-story Tega Cay home burned in April. Hand-N-Hand members are Olivia Adams, 12, and her sister, Gabrielle, 9, and brothers Donovan, 8, and 6-year-old Graeson Ippolito.
Nicholas Greek, 9, and brothers Zachary, 7, and William, 11, accept gift baskets and more than $600 in cash and gift cards from Hand-N-Hand, a group that formed during spring break to raise money to help the Greek family after their two-story Tega Cay home burned in April. Hand-N-Hand members are Olivia Adams, 12, and her sister, Gabrielle, 9, and brothers Donovan, 8, and 6-year-old Graeson Ippolito.

Sell lemonade. Go door-to-door. Solicit businesses.

That was the plan four Tega Cay children initiated to help their peers who lost their home to a fire. The strategy was effective, yielding hundreds of dollars and gift card donations for Nathaniel and Jesica Greek, the Tega Cay couple whose Wind Song Bay home was gutted by a Good Friday blaze.

Last Tuesday, Jesica Greek was overwhelmed by the act of the children, including Olivia Adams and sibling Gabrielle, as well as neighbors Donovan and Graeson Ippolito - all members of Hand-N-Hand.

"It's amazing because the children and the community reached out to us when we are in need," Greek said. "It shows us what a great community we live in."

Over spring break, the children formed Hand-N-Hand, a group that will offer help to those in need, Olivia said. The first step of their mission involved setting up a lemonade stand in a neighborhood park. For three hours, Gabrielle and Graeson poured lemonade while Olivia and Donovan collected money.

"I was very impressed with how much we collected," said Olivia, 12, a seventh grader at Gold Hill Middle School. "I was very happy and looking forward to giving the money to the Greeks."

The group made $100, but they were $900 short of their target. So, the next day, they enacted their contingency plan. Gabrielle, 9, a fourth grader at Gold Hill Elementary, and Graeson, 6, went door-to-door with their siblings to ask for donations.

Graeson, a first grader at Gold Hill Elementary, rang door bells and knocked on doors.

"Fifteen minutes went by and they had made about $30," said Graeson's dad, John. "Then two hours later, they had $250 that people had pledged to give them."

Back at their homes, the children enacted the third phase of their plan. They picked up the telephone book and called businesses.

"I was the caller," Olivia said.

"I was the writer," said Donovan, 8, a Gold Hill Elementary third grader, who recorded each donation pledged by a business.

When mom, Melissa, got home from work, she was the hauler.

"I didn't have a choice," she quipped. "It didn't matter what I had going on, I was taking them."

She loaded up her pickup truck and complied. Days later, Bruce Adams did the same.

"I didn't think anyone was going to give them money at the businesses," Melissa Ippolito said. "I was amazed at some of the businesses that believed the kids and were willing to step up."

At the end of their four-day effort, the children collected an assortment of gift cards totaling $390 and two gift baskets loaded with goodies for the Greeks' youngest sons. A combined cash donation of $252.50 rounded out their effort.

And four parents were in awe.

"I'm very proud of them because they were willing to help other people. That's what it's all about," Shelly Adams said. "It's great to see kids wanting to help their peers. It makes me feel like I'm doing something right by them."

As for spring break, the kids lost valuable time.

"They would have normally been out here playing all day long," Melissa Ippolito said about outdoor fun in front of her home and her neighbor's home.

"They (the children) never complained. They never wanted to quit. They had a goal of $1,000. They didn't reach it, but they tried their hardest. They had a mission."

"We're not doing it (fundraising) by the year," Olivia said. "We're just going to give our help when it's needed. It can be next week."

That undying promise to help impressed the Greek's oldest son, William.

"It proves that we have friends here and people who are thinking about us," he said.

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