In late 2009 while driving past the Ronkonkoma Fire Department, David Castellano noticed a food drive truck distributing groceries to a long line of people. Standing alone on this line was a young girl no older than 5 years old. Unable to get the image of this girl, who resembled his nieces, out of his head Dave discovered that the girl and her family lived locally. That Christmas, Dave and his friends delivered gifts to her and her sister. And so began a passion for helping underprivileged families on Long Island.
This year’s third annual It’s All For The Kids Christmas fundraising event is on December 4 at The Middle Country Beer Garden, on Middle Country Road in Centereach. A night of drinking and dancing is also benefiting local children. The goal this year is to raise $12,500.
Castellano says that 100% of these funds will go directly towards Christmas gifts for an estimated 500 children. He stressed the importance of helping children locally as he grew up in Suffolk County and had a similar upbringing to the kids he is helping.
A child of a divorced home, Castellano and his older sister were raised by a single mother who had a hard time making ends meet.
“Holidays were always rough for my mother," Castellano says. "And there were some years we didn’t have presents under the tree to open because she simply didn’t have the money to put them there.”
As an adult Castellano made a name for himself on the Long Island club scene, often hosting events and doing emcee duties. But he had a vision. He wanted to incorporate the club scene and all that goes into it – promotions, drinks, music and styling – with profits going directly to children on Long Island.
It’s All For The Kids foundation is a 501(C)3 Non-Profit Corporation, donating 100 percent of its funds right to the children of Long Island. Castellano has dealt with his fair share of skeptics who don’t believe that all proceeds go directly to the children. He insists that unlike other charities he can account for every penny.
According to Castellano, all of the children receiving gifts from It’s All For The Kids are found by referrals only. Through friends, Facebook and other social media outlets, individuals contact Castellano, his mother, Linda Castellano, and his assistant, Christina Brunqwell, alerting them to families who could possibly use assistance during the holidays. Castellano, his mother and Brunqwell then contact the families and after learning a little bit about them, request “Dear Santa” letters from the children.
After the December 4th Christmas event, all the funds raised will be pooled and volunteers will hit up local department stores for the gifts that the children have requested. Gifts are then wrapped and distributed to the families the week before Christmas.
The inaugural Christmas event, held on December 21, 2010, was at Dublin Down Tavern in Blue Point. The goal for that event was to raise $5,000, and although only raising $4,440, Castellano it helped provide Christmas presents to 45 children.
Dave’s biggest obstacle is finding a bar or club owner willing to forgo one night’s profits for a good cause. Bartenders and bouncers work for free and donate their pay or tips at the end of the night.
It’s All For The Kids now assists only families in Suffolk County. Castellano's goal is to expand the charity to families in Nassau and Queens counties as well.
It’s All For The Kids also works with The Timothy Hill Children Ranch, a Riverhead-based working farm that opened in 1980. They provide housing and employment to homeless and underprivileged inner city males aged 7-19. Last year, Castellano's charity delivered gifts, as well as toiletries, food and other necessities to the young men living at the ranch.
Dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Castellano says Long Island families are in need more than ever. He reminds us that any donation to It’s All For The Kids, no matter the amount, is appreciated.
“My goal is to get these kids to believe that Santa exists,” Castellano says. “Every child deserves to believe, that’s part of being a kid.”
This article was submitted by Victoria Pagan.