Mineola mom encourages children to give back with local fundraising campaign

Rebecca Klar
Local children donate more than $1500 in gift cards and money, as well as six boxes of toys, to Denise Heckleman's second annual #friendswhogive fundraiser on Dec. 2. (Photo courtesy of Denise Heckleman)

Denise Heckleman said she was tired of her children asking for money to buy their friends gifts that would be appreciated for five minutes and then tossed in a corner.

“Why don’t we take that money and put it together to get a gift for someone that really doesn’t have,” Heckleman said. “And there’s no better way to do that then keep it in the community.”

Last year she decided to start a fundraiser called #friendswhogive. Members of the Mineola community donate toys, gift cards and money that Heckleman then distributes to local schools.

Heckleman reached out to parents on Facebook to see if they had similar frustrations, she said. Other mothers jumped on the idea, she said, and together put on a successful event two years in a row.

On Dec. 2, Heckleman had her second annual #friendswhogive event outside her home on Marcellus Road. The fundraiser brought in more than six boxes of toys and $1,500 in gift cards and cash – with more gifts still trickling in, Heckleman said.

With a donation, kids receive a T-shirt, donated by one of Heckleman’s colleagues, she said.

WIth a donation, children receive a #friendswhogive T-shirt and a cup of hot chocolate.
(Photo courtesy of Denise Heckleman)

Heckleman spreads the donations between Meadow Drive School, Hampton Street School and St. Aidan’s School. Some of the donations also go toward single mothers in a program at Nassau Community College to help them buy baby clothing, food or whatever else is needed, according to Heckleman.

“I wanted to teach my children that it was time to give back,” Heckleman said. “Yes we’re fortunate that we have the little that we do have but we have and it’s time to give back to the community kids that don’t have.”

Heckleman, the mother of an eighth-grader and ninth-grader, said there was a little resistance from her children at first but now they’ve embraced the concept of #friendswhogive.

Heckleman’s children aren’t the only ones.

Tara Bridges, the mother of three Mineola students, said her 14-year-old daughter asked families she babysits for to pay her in gift cards to donate to #friendswhogive in lieu of payment.

“They proudly wear their shirts to school the next day,” Bridges said. “It spreads that good will giving that’s really the reason for the season.”


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