More than 10,000 letters from students all over the Old Bridge School District were delivered to the Macy’s department store in East Brunswick as part of Macy’s Make-A-Wish Believe Campaign last week. The letter campaign was spearheaded by 11-year-old A.J. Silvestri, a sixth-grader at Carl Sandburg Middle School. For every letter completed, Macy’s donated $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses. PHOTOS COURTESY OF KERRYANN SILVESTRI OLD BRIDGE — More than 10,000 letters from students all over the Old Bridge School District were delivered to the Macy’s department store in East Brunswick as part of Macy’s Make-A-Wish Believe Campaign last week.
For every letter completed, Macy’s donated $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses.
Spearheading the endeavor was 11-year-old A.J. Silvestri, a sixth-grader at Carl Sandburg Middle School, who had his own wish granted three years ago. A.J. has cystic fibrosis, a chronic and progressive cellular disease affecting the lungs.
A.J. Silvestri, a sixth-grader at Carl Sandburg Middle School, reads one of the letters with Superintendent of Schools David Cittadino. “A.J. has problems breathing and ingesting,” said his mom, Kerryann Silvestri, adding that A.J. has had 12 surgeries, takes 19 to 20 pills a day and is fed through a feeding tube.
A.J.’s wish involved traveling to Las Vegas to meet the cast of “Pawn Stars.” A.J. also got to meet the cast of “American Restoration,” a show also on the History Channel.
“The trip was a week after [superstorm] Sandy [in 2012],” Silvestri said.
A.J. said it was two years ago when he watched a commercial about the Macy’s Make-A-Wish Believe Campaign,
“I thought it was something that I wanted to do,” he said.
So A.J. broached the idea with his family and his school principal, who was Suzanne Misckiewicz last year at Leroy Gordon Cooper Elementary School. Misckiewicz has since retired.
The school staff and fellow students rallied behind A.J.’s idea and were able to produce thousands of letters.
This year, Silvestri said her son again wanted to pursue the fundraiser.
“With being at a brand new school, we weren’t sure how well we would do,” she said.
Some 5,300 letters were written by students at Carl Sandburg Middle School, and over 5,000 more letters came from students all over the school district.
“This is the largest amount of letters [collected],” A.J. said, adding that he would like to continue the letter campaign every year.
A.J. and his family delivered the letters to Macy’s on Dec. 19. Representatives of the Make-A-Wish Foundation were on hand to thank A.J. for his efforts.
Silvestri said their family is big on service to others and said A.J., despite his debilitating disease, is strong and always thinks of doing things for others.
“We are so lucky to have so much support,” she said. “Everyone is so caring and supportive, it’s amazing. [Schools Superintendent David] Cittadino was at the Macy’s on Saturday with us.”
The Board of Education recognized A.J. at a meeting on Dec. 15 with a Service Leadership Award.
The district-wide “Pay it Forward” campaign was derived from the district’s theme, “Local Pride, Global Impact,” and was introduced during the staff’s first day of service on Sept. 1.