Making birthdays happier for South Shore families in need


C.J. Cascio, 17, began collecting birthday party supplies and gathering them into care packages for families in need in December. In February he completed his Celebrate You Eagle Scout project. 

“It feels great, but I’m sad it’s almost over,” Cascio said. “At least now I start helping children in the neighborhood, and they can celebrate their birthdays.”

Cascio, a Baldwin High School senior and a member of Boy Scout Troop 824, partnered with “Feed Long Island and Donate Anything,” a Facebook group dedicated to providing food to underprivileged families in Nassau County, and Lorrie Prager, an administrator for the group, to collect items for children’s birthday parties — cakes, icing, candles and everything else needed for first-class birthday celebrations.

Together they created Celebrate You — the first “Feed Long Island and Donate Anything” initiative aimed at families in need. Cascio, his family members, friends, and fellow Boy Scouts from his troop assembled more than 90 birthday packages on Feb. 17 for Prager to begin distributing.

“It was a never-ending procession of birthday kits to my house,” said Prager, who lives in Rockville Centre. “Box after box after box.”

Prager has worked with Brooke Diamond, the founder of “Feed Long Island and Donate Anything” — whose members have shopped for groceries for the needy and elderly, collected school supplies for children and donated gifts on Christmas and Easter — since the coronavirus pandemic reached Long Island in 2020. Cascio, Prager said, reached out to her last December to ask for her help with his Eagle Scout community service project.

Cascio said he initially planned to raise funds for victims of the war in Ukraine, but he liked the idea of helping children in his community even better.

His mother, Kimberly Cascio, said that C.J. has enough merit badges to become an Eagle Scout, has taken on leadership roles, and plans to apply for scouting’s top rank later this month.

“We did really good,” Kimberly said of Celebrate You. “We got more donations than expected.” 

C.J. said he collected all the donations in his family’s home in Baldwin, and that boxes of birthday party supplies were strewn around their living room for two months. In early February, he invited five fellow members of Troop 824 to organize everything into the birthday kits.

With his parents’ help, he said, he loaded two cars and spent an afternoon transferring the supplies to Prager’s home. 

“We lived with a messy living room for a while, and now that we moved all the packages to (Lorrie) Prager’s home, she can’t see her floor,” Kimberly said. “As we moved materials out of our home, I thought, ‘Oh wow, we have a floor and a table under there.’”

Prager and Cascio have been distributing the kits to families in need since Feb. 17. “It’s been well-received,” she said. “The parents are beyond grateful. The children were so surprised, because they thought they wouldn’t have a birthday celebration. Thanks to C.J. and Celebrate You, they will.”

Prager said she would continue to deliver the kits until they run out, and added that she plans to continue the Celebrate You program with Feed Long Island’s help.