With a love for helping others, two sets of sisters are hoping to inspire others to do the same — while still in elementary school.
On the first day of February, Giuliana and Ella Capobianco, along with Grace and Moira Bartsch, led more than 30 of their friends in assembling goody bags for the nonprofit Birthday Wishes, which works to make parties for homeless children a little brighter. The event was a project of MUVE Long Island, a group created by the four elementary students.
During an interview at the Capobiancos’ St. James home Feb. 8, the girls had 300 bags in boxes ready to be picked up and delivered. Some bags contained crayons for young ones while others had toiletries for teens.
“MUVE helps get more of our friends or anybody involved,” Giuliana said.
Giuliana and Grace, both 10 years old, are fifth graders at Dogwood Elementary School and had decided to start MUVE Long Island a few months ago. Their sisters Moira, 9, who also goes to Dogwood, and Ella, 7, who attends Mills Pond Elementary School, said they were happy to get involved too.
“We always loved volunteering and wanted to do it more frequently,” Grace said.
The girls said the acronym MUVE stands for medically challenged, underprivileged, veterans and elderly for the first groups they helped.
“Those are some of the people we help but we help anyone,” Giuliana said.
The girls said philanthropy has been a part of their lives even before MUVE. Giuliana said her sister Ella has Prader-Willi syndrome, and the family has been involved in fundraisers to find a cure for PWS. The spectrum disorder has symptoms that vary in severity and occurrence among individuals. Giuliana and Ella said they also have a great-grandmother in a nursing home whom they visit often.
Grace said she has an uncle with autism and epilepsy and a great-uncle that she visits in a vets home. Moved by those in the vets and nursing homes, last holiday season the girls led their friends in caroling at both facilities.
The girls said they enjoyed visiting the residents with their friends.
“It’s really good to see their reaction when they get whatever we’re giving,” Giuliana said.
A few months earlier, the girls traveled to a soup kitchen in Brentwood with their school’s Peanut Butter Gang to hand out Halloween costumes where they only wished they had more to bring.
“They were so excited that they couldn’t even choose,” Grace said. “It was kind of sad too because some people wanted different costumes, but they weren’t their size, or we didn’t have them.”
Some of the next things on their lists, the girls said, is to make dog and cat toys for local shelters and to plan an event to help those who are vision impaired and another for those with epilepsy.
The MUVE founders said their friends and the Smithtown Central School District have been helpful in their mission, and members of their cheer group at Gravity Cheer in Holtsville have also shown interest in participating in future events. A few teachers at Dogwood have even shared a video the girls have created about MUVE with several of the classes.
Dogwood Elementary School Principal Renee Carpenter said in an email she is proud of the students.
“At Dogwood, we spend a lot of our efforts on teaching students to be leaders,” she said. “Many of our clubs such as Leadership Club and Peanut Butter Gang all have students engaged in community service projects. These particular girls were inspired to do more. To make an even bigger difference in the lives of others and they took action.”
The principal said MUVE is inspiring more students to help others.
“Because of their initiative to take action, more and more students are jumping on board to help MUVE with their efforts. Students are realizing that they can make a difference.”
Carpenter said while working on something like MUVE young people learn life skills such as problem solving, collaboration, planning and organizational skills. She said it also helps to increase self-esteem and create a connection with the community.
“MUVE is making a positive, lasting impact on those in our community and all of us at Dogwood are proud of this,” she said.
When it comes to organizing something as big as a philanthropy group and its events, the girls said they spread the word by telling all their friends about their next activity using social media. Grace said they will have business cards to hand out soon too.
Dana Capobianco, Giuliana and Ella’s mother, said while she and Grace and Moira’s mom Bernadette Bartsch help to facilitate some things, for example, getting in touch with the veterans hospital, the girls quickly take over.
The MUVE initiative hasn’t surprised either of them.
Bartsch said whenever the families were involved in philanthropy, they would bring the girls and their friends along.
“They would be so involved, and we saw how happy they were in these situations,” the mom said. “So, we kept going.”
“The coolest part to me is seeing how confident the girls are,” she said. “I don’t think they can necessarily articulate how it makes them feel.”
The girls said people looking for more information about MUVE Long Island can find them on Facebook and Instagram (muvelongisland).