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St. Francis Medical Center Receives Donated Gifts for Children in Pediatric Program


Diocese of Trenton Catholic school students donated gifts as part of “Day of Service” initiative

TRENTON, NJ–St. Francis Medical Center recently received a donation of toys and more than $700 in gift cards as part of the Diocese of Trenton Catholic elementary schools’ “Hearts to Hospitals Day of Service” event. The donation benefits the medical center’s CARES (Children Are Really Extra Special) program, which offers support to children ages 3 to 14 with emotional, behavioral, or psychiatric challenges.


Students from the Diocese’s 31 schools raised monetary and gift card donations and collected more than 10,000 toys to benefit children in area hospitals. Students filled bags with toys, books, puzzles, snacks and more. Once donations from all schools were combined, the gifts were then blessed by Diocese of Trenton Bishop David O’Connell.

(left to right, first row): Nicolas Hollendonner, 8th grade, St. Raphael School; Elizabeth O’Connor 2nd grade, Trenton Catholic Academy; and Matthew Walsh, 7th grade, Our Lady of Sorrows School; along with (left to right, second row): Michele Czechowski, LCSW, CARES program director, St. Francis Medical Center; Father Carmen Carlone, Pastoral Care, St. Francis Medical Center; and Judith A. Nicastro, Associate Director School Services, Diocese of Trenton

Student representatives Elizabeth O’Connor, second grade, Trenton Catholic Academy; Nicholas Hollendonner, eighth grade, St. Raphael School; and Matthew Walsh, seventh grade, Our Lady of Sorrows School, hand-delivered donated gifts to St. Francis’ CARES program director Michele Czechowski, LCSW; and Father Carmen Carlone, St. Francis Pastoral Care.

“We are overwhelmed by the students’ generosity,” said Czechowski. “Play is so important to our patients’ healing. It is a necessity for learning and child development, as well as stress-relief and anxiety. On behalf of our patients and their families, as well as our staff, we offer our heartfelt thanks.”

“It was a Diocesan effort and we’re proud of our students,” said Judy Nicastro, associate director of School Services, Diocese of Trenton. “Service means a lot to our faith but also to the wellness of our community. It was a great learning project for the children and they gained an understanding of what other children might be experiencing and how they can help. They also were able to feel the joy that comes with helping others.”

Nicastro says the Diocese plans to continue the “Heart to Hospitals” service project next year. “We want the children to know that service is not a collection event. It’s about lifelong commitment to serve and make a difference in the lives of others.”

Nicolas Hollendonner, 8th grade, St. Raphael School, holds a box of donated toys and gifts for the children of St. Francis Medical Center CARES program. He is followed by Judith A. Nicastro, Associate Director School Services, Diocese of Trenton (left); his mother Lina (right) and Matthew Walsh, 7th grade, Our Lady of Sorrows School (far right), along with his mother Christina (left).

In addition to the toys and gift cards, students also wrote letters of well-wishes to the children in the CARES program. “The students took the theme to heart and prayed for the children as well.”

Since 2003, the CARES program at St. Francis has provided compassionate, high-quality care to children who do not require inpatient service but cannot be managed by community resources alone. The program is open weekdays, year-round at St. Francis Medical Center. For more information, go to

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