By Laurie Christiansen
A young, energetic force has joined the effort to support the 101st Airborne Division Association Massachusetts Home Base Chapter - her name is Emma Ricciardelli (pictured at right).
In June this year she completed her sophomore year at Austin Preparatory School in Reading, MA and here is the story of how she got here and where she intends to go in the near future.
Some background: The MA Home Base Chapter has teamed up with Home Base, a Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Program, to heal the invisible wounds for Veterans, Service Members and their Families through world-class clinical care, wellness, education and research. An important part of the Home Base program is to provide veterans and their families with Adventure Series activities which help “Veterans and Military families connect with each other, learn more about the services provided by Home Base and offers fun outings for Service Members, Veterans and their families.”
This is where Emma comes in. From the time Emma was a little girl, her parents (Robert and Diane), instilled in her the importance of not focusing on what your background is or what your lifestyle is like - it does not matter how much you have. Her mother Diane set an example early on, working with adults with developmental disabilities where Emma volunteered. What matters is how you live your life and the importance of serving and volunteering to help others and part of that included the importance of veterans to our country.
While still in middle school Emma, with help from her dad Robert, reached out to Dick George (Home Base Chapter President) to speak at Emma’s school on Veteran’s Day. The bond was formed, and the spark was lit and her interest in, and dedication to, veterans continues today. For Emma, volunteering and performing community service is front and center. For an Austin Prep student to graduate, 40 hours of service is required – Emma has accumulated that time by the end of her sophomore year! Her passion is palpable and her efforts to raise funds for Home Base have already helped fund the upcoming Home Base Whale Watch in September. See the 2017 Whale Watch video at https://www.screamingeaglesma.org/home-base.
Doing standouts at the local supermarket brings in funds to help support veterans and Emma has been overwhelmed by the support they have received. She has seen how generous people were in their giving even before reading the flyers which explained what Home Base does for veterans.
But Emma has bigger ideas. First, she wants to make Home Base one of the three charities supported by Austin Prep. Next, she intends to start a club at her school - “Students for Home Base”, recruiting fellow students who also want to help veterans and bring together a variety of different skills. She envisions the club will meet at school using “Cougar Block” (a free period given to the students during the school day for clubs to meet, the cougar being Austin Prep’s mascot) to develop strategies to advance the fundraising efforts for Home Base. Her mind is full of ideas to explore – a GoFundMe page, a website following “Students for Home Base” efforts, creating videos of Home Base activities, an app to explain and give more details to the help that is needed and what can be given. She knows full well that when these young students get together, motivated to help veterans, new avenues will open through the synergy of these like-minded volunteers. She has already spoken to teachers and advisors regarding the idea and there were some issues raised about the time commitment, especially in the Junior year and for athletes. But by implementing the club to the middle school level, the numbers can be spread out over the entire student body, while also preparing the middle-schoolers with a commitment to community service early on.
Emma is also excited about the school meetings every Thursday which can serve as the perfect venue for bringing awareness to the overall community of the activities of “Students for Home Base”.
Beginning with her parents’ focus on teaching her to think and be concerned about issues and people beyond herself, Emma has become an inspiration in her support of and dedication to our country’s veterans. She is currently completing an application to become a Life Associate Member of the 101st Airborne Division Association and is very motivated and enthusiastic about joining the Association.