In 1993, Donna Piscopo founded and energetically organized an aerobic marathon called Put Your Heart Into It . . . Clothe-a-Child to benefit the Clothe-a-Child charity. During the marathon, participants complete a two-hour aerobic workout and collect donations from sponsors. Money collected goes to Clothe-a-Child, a nonprofit program providing new clothing to needy children ages 5-12. The program is 100% privately funded. Volunteer shoppers are paired with children for a shopping trip to area retailers. The clothes are not returnable and parents’ income is verified. Now in its 21st year, the News Herald’s Clothe-a-Child program has provided clothing for 10,000 children in Lake County.
The first Put Your Heart Into It marathon was held in 1994 and raised $1,500. Piscopo and her class were inspired, to say the least. 1995 was equally successful and added $2,307 to the Clothe-a-Child coffer. That was only the beginning . . .
Piscopo decided the 1996 event would be held on national Make A Difference Day after reading about the Points of Light Foundation sponsored program in USA Weekend magazine. The marathon netted $2,300 and regional honors for the group’s Make A Difference Day debut.
In 1997 a new twist – Make A Difference Day – We Gotcha Covered – was added to the Put Your Heart Into It event. Along with the marathon for Clothe-a-Child, they collected and assembled 121 personal care packages for Project Hope, a homeless shelter. Forbes House, a battered women’s home, was asked for a “wish list” of items needed and received a generous supply of women’s lingerie, towels and a brand new baby stroller the marathoners procured courtesy of Dillards, Wal-Mart & USA Baby.
In 1998 Make A Difference Day for the Young, and Young-At-Heart included the marathon and a trip to Heartland, a Nursing/Assisted Living/Rehab center, for a fitness get-together. While at Heartland they visited the elderly residents (many confined to wheelchairs) and conducted a spirited session of movements to music. At this point, the group had raised almost $19,500 for Clothe-a-Child.
1999 they again set their sights on Clothe-a-Child but this time, in addition to fundraising through the marathon, many participants also signed on as volunteer shoppers in the program. Since Clothe-a-Child is handled with strict anonymity, this unique experience afforded them a chance to meet some of the children whose lives have been enriched by their generosity.
The 7th annual Put Your Heart Into It marathon was held December 2, 2000 and brought the grand total to $30,000. Thanks to the efforts of these volunteers, more than 150 underprivileged children have warm clothing and shoes to wear to school.