By Mallika Mitra

Three eighth-grade girls in the Huntington school district have made a difference this holiday season by raising money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Suffolk County.

Maggie Giles, Erica Vazquez, and Gaia D’Anna, who attend J. Taylor Finley Middle School, have spent the past several weeks selling holiday cards at the school. The girls raised more than $1,000, which has been sent to Make-A-Wish, an organization that grants the wishes of children diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions.

Finley PTA President Julie LaBella said Vazquez was watching a television show a little over a year ago in which a Make-A-Wish child had her wish granted, according to a school press release. The story inspired her to start this fundraiser with her two friends. This is the second year the girls have sold the holiday cards, which exhibit original work by Patrick Giles, Maggie Giles’s father.

Finley students Gaia D’Anna, Maggie Giles and Erica Vazquez. Photo from Jim Hoops
Finley students Gaia D’Anna, Maggie Giles and Erica Vazquez. Photo from Jim Hoops

Last year, the girls raised $350. This year the girls’ original goal was $700, but they surpassed that and made more than $1,000, LaBella said.

“They are an amazing group of girls,” LaBella said in the press release. “It’s so refreshing to see young kids put so much effort into such a wonderful cause.”

The girls have received help from their parents, Finley Middle School Principal John Amato and Sharon Holly, a family and consumer science teacher at the school.

According to LaBella, the cards that the girls have been selling are popular with kids, teachers and parents. The eighth-graders sold so many cards that a second printing was required.

Jim Polansky, the Huntington school district superintendent, bought a package of cards from the girls.

“When listening to Gaia, Maggie and Erica describe their efforts, their caring, compassion, and selflessness simply jumped off the page,” Polansky said in a phone interview. “It was easy to discern how much they wish to make a difference. I was beyond pleased to purchase a package of cards and help contribute to their initiative, which was to do what they could to brighten the lives of others through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.”

Jim Hoops, the Huntington school district public information coordinator, said he believes the girls plan to make this fundraiser an annual event during the holiday season.

“This is an account of three incredible young people who are destined to make a difference,” Polansky said in a statement. “It is refreshing and energizing to speak with them about the initiative, to learn how much it means to them, and how readily they will place the needs of others before their own.”

The Make-A-Wish Foundation relies on donations from fundraisers, such as the one Maggie, Erica and Gaia hosted, to grant wishes and change lives.

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