March 6, 2015
By Sarah Vander Schaaff
Parents such as Jean and John Gianacaci are examples to many of us in how to love a child. They lost their daughter, Christine Gianacaci, in January 2010, when an earthquake destroyed the hotel she and fellow students from Lynn University were staying in the country of Haiti.
Instead of looking at the trip as the end of their 22-year-old daughter’s life, they express her journey and ultimate death as a culmination and fulfillment of her calling, “…in her short life, Christine achieved something many of us never achieve; she found a purpose and a calling that gave her true happiness and purpose. She died doing what she was meant to do. She died doing what she loved.”
For the young woman from Hopewell, New Jersey, the desire to help children in need became a passion after a trip to Jamaica her sophomore year.
Her own life had not been without isolation. From the age of 11 to the end of high school, Christine suffered from the effects of Tourette’s Syndrome. Her parents describe that phase as one during which she became more quiet, shy, and sensitive to the power of teasing.
Perhaps, as many hardships do, however, it increased her compassion for others and, ultimately, her passion for missionary work.
Today, Christine’s parents are fully committed to their daughter’s calling with a thriving foundation created in her honor five years ago this month. Christine’s Hope for Kids (CHFK) raises money to help less fortunate children and to support local community agencies that work with or benefit children in need.
The foundation is also the first organization in Mercer County to be selected as the 2014-2015 NJ Association of Student Council’s State Charity of the Year.
Christine’s mother, Jean said of that distinction, “These kids are the next generation of community leaders. If we can facilitate the spirit of volunteering at a young age…they will carry it on.”
CHFK is honoring its five-year anniversary with a specific campaign this month: Five for Five. With a contribution of $100, donors can support the foundation via the purchase of a package of five celebratory notecards. Each package contributes to supporting five different children. Donors can then use the notecards to tell a recipient that a donation has been made to the foundation in their name.
While much of the organization’s focus is in New Jersey, the foundation also has a small group based in Florida near Lynn University. As Jean Gianacaci said, “There is need everywhere.” The organization has reached tens of thousands of children, ” …those that received the services and goods and the kids that volunteer and experience the joy of giving back,” she added.
If you’d like to get a sense of who Christine was, and the spirit her parents celebrate through their foundation’s work, I invite you to take a look at the CHFK website. There are opportunities to read more about the foundation, learn how to donate or purchase the “Five for Five” gift cards, as well as short videos.
One of the hardest things as a parent, I believe, is to keep an open heart in the face of tragedy or with the perception that the world is a dangerous place. Jean and John Gianacaci are reminders that love is always stronger than fear.
Did you see our post last week on the non-profit, Above the Fray? Increase your digital empathy for the texting and social identity our children face. Read our blog by clicking here.
Mindprint Learning, the first online cognitive assessment parents can administer to their children from their home computers, would like to extend a special hello to Blogelina 2015 Commentathon. They are offering a code for 50% off the full price using this code: EdMomSpecial. If you’d like a discount code to offer your own readers, please email Eric at Eric@mindprintlearning.com
Learn more at the website and watch the video: click here.
Tragedies break some people and make some people more open and ready to give to the world (and I wouldn’t want to be tested which side I would be on, but then no one does). What an inspirational story!
What a wonderful way to honor their daughter and turn a tragedy into hope for children in need. I really like what they said about Christine fulfilling her call.
What an amazing way to deal with life’s tragedies. I hope it inspires some of us to do some more good while we can!
I had never heard of Mindprint Learning till I read your post. I had to go over to their site and see what it was all about. Very interesting! My children have some learning and behavioral disabilities and I would love to know what Mindprint thinks. However I am also on a budget and don’t want to spend the money 🙁 Thanks very much for the input though 🙂 Have a great week!
Tina–thanks for the note. It sounds like Mindprint could be of use to your family if you’re interested–you can send me an email and I can tell you more if you’d like. I write about a range of educational topics including what they focus on–cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Best-Sarah
Wow! While I had never previously heard about this, I really love the idea of this. Thank you so much for sharing AND for the discount!
Gosh how awful to lose a child but what an amazing way to honour her life.
What a wonderful foundation to offer these tools, it is great that they turned tragedy into something wonderful for so many!
Christine sounds like she was a wonderful, amazing girl. Her parents should be commended on helping her “live on” through the foundation they formed in her honor. Tragedies with positive outcomes are always heartwarming.
What a wonderful way to honor their daughter. It sounds like she was very admirable young woman who worked hard to help others.
Wow, what a great way to overcome challenges in your life. I wish most of us turn the struggles that we face in life into something positive and helpful to the community 🙂
What a beautiful soul! That’s so wonderful her parents have continued on with her legacy. Thank you for sharing this story and more information on how to help.
What a powerful way to honor their daughter. I can’t imagine losing one of my children, nor can I imagine the pain that parents in third world and developing nations must feel as they watch their children suffer from lack of resources that we in the First World take so for granted. Thank you for sharing information about this organization.
What a tragically sweet and inspiring story. Christine was an angel (on earth and in heaven) sent to help children, and not only did she fulfill her calling in the physical realm, she is continuing to fulfill it in the spiritual realm!
It takes courage to celebrate a young life lost so soon, but what an impact her parents have made – they are making a real difference which is these increasingly tough and callous times is a real achievement.
Thank you for sharing such an inspirational story. A family that is dealing with heart-ache makes something beautiful out of it instead. Their daughter would be so pleased.
This is an inspirational story. Christine’s parents are brave and honorable people.
This is new to me and what an amazing tribute to their daughter. Thank you for sharing.
What an amazing story of courage- I doubt I could have handled such a profound loss with such grace. The Gianacacis have honored their daughter in the most beautiful way; I am honored to come to know them and Christine through your post. I have added your post (and Christine) to our #PinItForward Movement.
It’s really impressive how these parents were able to turn their personal tragedy into a positive force. Good for them!
What an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing.
Looks very interesting! I never heard about Mindprint Learning,. Thank you!
A lovely way to honour their daughter, and to turn tragedy into hope.
When ever I read a story where a death of someone ends up resulting in something positive happening it really warms my heart.
This was truly an inspiring story. May her parents have peace. I’m going to read more about this Five for five now.
Wow! What a wonderful outcome of a sad situation. That sounds like the perfect way to honor their daughter and her legacy!
Stories like this is where you can really see God’s hand bringing beauty from ashes. Sometimes we ask “Why, God?” but there really is a plan.
Wow.. touching story. Great that her legacy moves on in the non profit to support others and raise leaders up!
Such a wonderful thing to come out of such tragedy.
Wow… I never knew of the Americans we lost in that earthquake. My heart goes out to here family. I think it’s amazing that her parents took up her causes to continue her memory and her legacy.
I love to see someone turn a sad situation into something positive. Thank you for sharing this touching story.
That is amazing of them to do! The children they help are so very blessed. It is beautiful that Christine’s parents chose to turn her death into something that will last for generations to come and better the world.