Before 19 year old Stephanie Crispinelli left for Haiti on the humanitarian mission in which she lost her life, she gave her brother a bracelet that read, "Failure is not an Option.” Her family felt it only appropriate that the logline should drive the Stephanie Crispinelli Humanitarian Fund, and even though the July 10th tournament/fundraiser at Reis Park will crown only one champion, everyone involved will be a winner.
Last year’s tournament had six teams and raised more than $10,000. This year 12 teams signed up and hopefully the dollar value will also double with raffles and a silent auction ringing up a total.
Of course, money isn’t intended to be on people’s minds and Stephanie’s presence will be hard to miss, according to her best friend Mia Mirabile. “All together in one day, knowing that we are hanging out because of Steph,” says Mirabile. She would just love that and it’s a constant reminder, she adds.
In accordance, the tournament falls easily into the manner in which Somers responded to the tragedy. “We live in such a wonderful community. Everybody wanted to help and so it’s a way for everyone to get together to see this foundation as a community,” says her mom, Lin Crispinelli.
The Crispinelli’s began the foundation almost immediately after Stephanie’s body was recovered and stays true to the passion she developed upon two trips to Jamaica and the final one to Haiti. “They were so determined to have an education,” says Mirabile of the children Stephanie met, “and she wanted to help in any way she could.”
Given the uncertain state Haiti is still in, two schools were built in Jamaica in Stephanie’s memory. Completing Steph’s Place 1 and 2, these new structures replaced two dilapidated schools that the Jamaican government condemned. “We went down there with friends, family and people who were interested in making a difference and constructed them, says Crispinelli.
As a result, the impact on almost 200 Jamaican children will be far reaching. “They are going to have the opportunity to make something of their lives and break the cycle of poverty,” she says.
The kids might not be looking that far ahead but the parents certainly understood – even if they were unable to put their gratitude into words. So overcome with emotion, says Ms. Crispinelli, “They can’t express how happy they are.”
Back here the initiative, which operates under the umbrella of the Westchester Community Foundation, also provides scholarships for Somers and Lynn University students who want to embark on similar humanitarian missions. And if that’s not enough, last year Stephanie’s Mission raised enough money to build homes for two Westchester families. “It’s just powerful to be able to change lives so drastically,” says Crispinelli.
At the tournament, there will be a band, a dunk house, an inflatable castle and a free barbeque running all day. “Having the town together contributing to something good,” says Mirabile, “it’s a nice feeling.”
In the end, out of something like the softball tournament, more and more people become hooked to the idea of giving in the name of Stephanie and others, according to her mother. “The most incredible thing is it just raises the awareness that everybody’s life can make an impact on somebody else’s life,” she says.
And the mission continues.