Along with a handful of classmates, Ally is leading a local effort organizing the 12th Annual Fairways 5K and Block Party June 16 at Autumn Ct. in Wilton.
“I think it's important that young people speak out on what they believe in and care about; that's why I'm organizing this race. The Ugandan cause is close to my heart. Thinking about the happiness they will experience when they receive the money we raised makes all this hard work and organizing well worthwhile,” said Ally.
Twelve years ago, two former Saratoga High School students, Katie Roberts and Cameron Vahanian, began the fundraising event, which over the years benefited local charities such as Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Saratoga. Long since the original organizers’ initial work, the run continues and last year raised over $2,500. This year students are hoping to exceed that amount in order to assist their new cause, the children of Uganda.
Ally Cirenza initially became involved with Ugandan relief work when she accompanied her father, physician Manny Cirenza, and classmates on a humanitarian trip last February through the group AOET USA. In less than three weeks, they were able to perform over 400 school physicals and completed other tasks such as fixing a well and painting a dorm among others.
Cirenza is getting assistance in organizing the operation from local businesses and fellow schoolmates, Madison O’Malley, second lead organizer, Meg Roberts, James Eschner and Julianna Roberts, all juniors, and sophomores Laurel Green and Haley Perrone. Some of these students were a part of the group that accompanied the Cirenzas on their February trip. The students that weren’t able to make the trip were still inspired to help.
“My visit in Uganda was unforgettable and I had the time of my life. I fell in love with the children and their wonderful spirits while I was there. However, many Ugandans are poverty stricken. In spite of how little the Ugandans function on every day they are happy, caring and all-around beautiful people. Even a simple ‘hello’ can make their week,” said Ally.
“After having been there, you are touched by the experience and when you come home you want to try and do more,” said Dr. Cirenza. “As parents we’re involved in helping make connections and have purchased supplies for the fundraiser. For example, my wife, Lynn, purchased insurance; so the adults have helped some, but it’s mostly the kids.”
“The kids were so inspired from the trip to Uganda and they wanted to do more to support the people that they met there and made personal connections with. Seeing how the mobile medical clinics worked really motivated these students to try and do something special to help,” said Dr. Cirenza.
Mark Bertrand is another Saratoga resident that knows firsthand how urgently help is needed in the East African country. Bertrand is the founder of The Giving Circle, a 100 percent volunteer organization based in Saratoga comprised of volunteers from the Albany-Saratoga area working with a group of Ugandans. The organization has already built an orphanage, birthing center and school there while working on improving sanitation, among other initiatives, and the group of students was able to meet some of those people The Giving Circle is directly helping.
“There’s really nothing like it here in this country that compares with the poverty there,” said Bertand. “The poverty and illness are mind blowing, but the people are just amazing and so grateful for everything. We’ve been doing this work for years with friends at AOET. They sent a mobile clinic to the village of Kagome, Uganda, and that was the first time in the history of this village that those people were able to see a doctor. Thanks to AOET they finally had some
The race route is a loop through the Fairways neighborhood in Wilton, beginning and ending on Autumn Court and starts at 10 a.m. with the race, followed by a 11:30 a.m. kids’ kick. Registration is $15 and will remain available until the day of the race. The event raises money through registrations as well as from the support of sponsorships by many local businesses. The race will be followed by a family fun day featuring a bounce house, DJ Dev, face-painting, popsicles, a raffle and music by DJ Dev. Authentic Ugandan jewelry will also be available for purchase.
Proceeds raised June 16 will purchase a refrigerator for vaccines for the medical clinic.
“It’s nice that this fundraiser is supporting both charities because we work closely together,” Bertrand added.