Bringing holiday cheer to St. Vincent’s Cancer Center

The holidays just got merrier for patients and staffers at St. Vincent’s Hospital’s Cancer Center in Bridgeport.

Pictured are club members (front, from left) Evelyn Goyette and Paige Andrade, (middle) Lauren Breyan, and (rear) Elizabeth DiBlasi, Ayla Torres, Mia Alderman, Talia Barnhart, and Mia Briggs. — Brian Gioiele photo

The Student Activist Club at Jockey Hollow/STEM Middle School paid a visit to the third floor of the cancer center Monday to decorate the hallway and waiting room to help bring some happiness to those battling cancer as well as the doctors and staff members who are there daily.

“It’s great to get the children out in the community doing positive things,” said John Bevilacqua, STEM school counselor and club mentor. “It’s important to give back, to be kind to others. These kids are going to grow up to be successful, and they need to be able to give back to others.”

This is the fourth year that Bevilacqua has taken his club to decorate the cancer center, and center executive assistant Teresa Peterkin said the project helps to brighten the spirits not only  of the patients but also of the staff members who walk the halls every day.

Pictured, from left, Elizabeth McCarthy, Lillian Garland, Emma Cusa, school counselor John Bevilacqua, and Roberto Chavarria, and in the back, Jaycee Merizalde. — Brian Gioiele photo

“I’ve seen the students’ work here bring people to tears,” said Peterkin, who originally gave Bevilacqua the go-ahead to bring a touch of the holiday spirit to the cancer center. “The patients feel like it’s Christmas every day when they see what the students have created for them. It just makes everyone’s spirits go up.”

Bevilacqua said the club, once just a school-based operation, now has more of a community focus. Besides the annual holiday decorating of the cancer center, Bevilacqua said, students also plan to decorate the Yale Children’s Hospital in the spring, decorate the senior center and hold a concert in the spring for the town’s senior citizens.

“In today’s society, it is important to give back,” said Bevilacqua.

Jimmy Gill and Evelynn Goyette. — Brian Gioiele photo

The Student Activist Club is a community service program offered at Jockey Hollow’s main campus to both Jockey Hollow and STEM students. The program is offered to sixth, seventh and eighth graders on Wednesdays. The goal of the club is to educate participants about the community and others in a way that will help participants develop a passion for helping others. Further, several activities are created that allow participants to play a proactive role in having a positive impact within their town and in surrounding communities.

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