Kidchella: a cause close to home

PYN workers at A&W put on kid-based charity event to benefit Storm the Heavens Fund

Kid-sized fun for a good cause: Bianca Briglio and Shaylyn Edwards stop to say hi to friend Lily Rowson, 17, and her niece, Kennedy Garrison, 5, who took in all the fun at Kidchella. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

By Melissa Komar

Every summer, Philly Parks and Rec youth workers citywide are charged with creating a project to impact the greater community, and the group at Frank Glavin “A&W” Playground put on a event benefiting a cause close to home, only a few city blocks away to be exact.

Last Wednesday, Aug. 1, Philadelphia Youth Network workers hosted “Kidchella” at the Port Richmond rec center, with all proceeds benefiting Storm the Heavens Fund.

Storm the Heavens Fund was created by the Stendardo family in memory of their daughter, Philomena “Phil,” 8, to raise funds and awareness for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), which led to Phil’s death in July 2017.

The Stendardo family lives on the 3600 block of Almond Street, which was renamed “Storm the Heavens Way” in January in honor of Phil, a hop, skip and jump down the street from Glavin Playground at the intersection of Almond and Westmoreland.

Port Richmond residents and PYN group leaders at A&W Bianca Briglio, 17, and Shaylyn Edwards, 17 led the charge in organizing “Kidchella.”

“We’re doing Kidchella to raise money for Storm the Heavens to remember Phil,” Briglio said. “We called it ‘Kidchella’ based on ‘Coachella’ in California, but this is a kids version of it. We went around to a whole bunch of businesses and asked for donations, a lot of people donated food and water ice.”

“And, we’re chancing off two Phillies tickets, which were donated, to raise more money,” Edwards added. “We also sold T-shirts in advance.”

Thirty sponsors from the River Wards donated to the fundraiser.

Philadelphia Skateboard Academy, 3245 Amber St., hosted a skills clinic, Patty-Pat Kozlowski djed, a moon bounce was set up, face painting took place by the basketball court, relay races were run by youth workers, and arts and crafts projects were set up inside.

AJ Kohn, proprietor and lead instructor at Philadelphia Skateboard Academy, and Mark Klause and Hatchert Sallee, who were youth workers and now adult workers for Parks and Recs skateboarding program, led the clinics and demonstrations.

Ryan Morris, 6, and Anthony Smith, 7, receive instruction during the clinic provided by the Philadelphia Skateboard Academy at Kidchella. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

“It was a great way to meet more people in the community as well as a great cause we wanted to support as being members of that community,” Kohn said.

A $5 wristband granted people of all ages access to all the fun.

And, while the hundreds of people gathered at the neighborhood spot engaged in fun of all sorts, the fun was part of a larger fundraiser.

PYN workers at A&W were not alone in their quest to raise funds for the Storm the Heavens Fund: District 5 chose the nonprofit for its Charity Challenge at the beginning of the summer.

District 5 facilities include Bridesburg, Carmella, Cione, Cohocksink, Fishtown, Gambrell, Glavin, Heitzman, Monkiewicz, Samuel, and Shissler.

“The majority of the group leaders are from Bridesburg, Port Richmond, and Fishtown and when we were given a list of local organizations at orientation, as soon as we all saw Storm the Heavens, we all chose it,” Edwards said.

“It’s something that hits so close to home for all of us,” Briglio added. “Phil was from Port Richmond and it was so sad what happened and we wanted to dedicate our charity challenge to her. It was unanimous to donate to Storm the Heavens.”

Each summer, Parks and Rec hires hundreds of youth through the Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN).

Youth work at facilities throughout the department’s 10 districts.

And, each summer, each district selects a project to complete over the course of the employment period.

Last year, the project was officially changed to “The Charity Challenge,” which required each district to select a charity and each facility within that district to conduct two fundraisers, according to Terri Kerwawich, project director for Parks and Recreation

“Within safety considerations, and working with the recreation staff, youth are given freedom to select the type of fundraiser they want to conduct,” said Kerwawich, who oversees the WorkReady program partnership with PYN. “They then plan it, conduct it, tabulate the funds and evaluate the event. It is an introduction to project management.”

All funds raised at each site within each district go directly to the selected charity, according to Kerwawich.

“We were looking for something more fun for the kids to do, but give back at the same time,” she said. “It gives them the opportunity to get their feet wet in project management and do something good and give back to charity.”

For Briglio and Edwards, planning and executing the event was a well-worth it whirlwind.

“It happened so fast, and I can’t believe it turned out the way it did,” Briglio said. “We hope to make a great profit to donate to Storm the Heavens. It’s a great turnout for a great cause.”

Bianca Briglio and Shaylyn Edwards, along with all other group leaders from District 5, will present the funds raised from Kidchella and the other fundraisers to the Storm the Heavens Fund during a closing ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 9, at 3:30 p.m. at the Venice Island Performing Arts Center.