Local charity hosts Community Health Fair in South Orange

The Aspiring Kindness Foundation, a non-profit charity, sponsored a blood drive at the sixth annual free South Orange Health Fair on Saturday, Sept. 8 at the South Orange Fire Department.

Created in 2010 in the memory of a founder’s high school friend, Aaron Karol, who died in the January 2000 Boland Hall fire, Aspiring Kindness was one of the many groups at the Health Fair promoting fire safety and healthy living. They educated people about fire safety and handed out flashlights and information on the foundation. The donated blood from drive was given to the New Jersey Blood Center.

The motivation behind the blood drive was the fact that “the average burn victim requires 20 units of platelets,” Aspiring Kindness member Shaun Fine said. “There- fore, Aspiring Kindness believes supporting the local blood drives is needed and follows the foundation’s cause.”

“We’re just trying to support the community of South Orange,” another Aspiring Kindness member and Seton Hall alumnus, Michael Merizio said. “South Orange obviously being where Seton Hall is from, [we’re] trying to support the community of Seton Hall as much as we can.”

Merizio, 31, added that while receiving donations wasn’t the main priority of the blood drive, spreading the word about the foundation was their goal of the day.

Named after Karol because his initials are AK, Aspiring Kind- ness focuses a lot on fire safety, first responders, health volunteers and fire departments, according to Merizio. “We’ve been trying to support first responders and fire departments as best we could since we started,” he said.

In the past, Aspiring Kindness has made donations to organizations such as the Burn Center of Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston where the victims of the 2000 Boland fire were treated. $15,000 was “earmarked for a vein viewing machine at the Saint Barnabas’ Burn Unit,” said Fine.

Another contribution of $10,000 was made to the Presbyterian Hospital’s Burn Unit in New York City for recliners, according to Fine. Aspiring Kindness has also made contributions to the SOFD. “We donated presentation materials to them, a laptop and a projector, things like that so they can go and give fire safety classes,” Merizio said.

Other past events include an annual Cocktail party, a bike marathon and a Halloween party.

According to Merizio, the foundation meets with a group to sit down discussing what would be good ideas to bring friends and family together to support their cause, such like the bike marathons and Halloween party.

The foundation is currently planning upcoming fundraising events including a bowling party and golf event. “[We’re] just trying to find a nice way to get people together and have a good time all for a good cause,” Merizio said.

Another goal for Merizio and Aspiring Kindness was to “try to keep people interested, [have] new events, do new things and keep people interested and donating to our charity,” he said.

Tying into their philosophy, the logo of Aspiring Kindness “is based on a tattoo that AK had the Chinese symbol for ascension meaning “to rise up,” Fine said. “This is a philosophy that AK believed in and it is something we try to do while Aspiring Kindness.”

According to their website, the “fundraising efforts will benefit fire departments, EMTs, ambulatory services, hospital burn units and the Aaron Karol memorial scholarship.”

For more information about Aspiring Kindness and their events, visit their website at aspiringkindness.org.

Tiffany Do can be reached at tiffany.do@student.shu.edu

Author: Tiffany Do

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