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She focuses on giving rather than receiving

Learning how to help others at an early age

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Marielle Vasquez, 6, of Oyster Bay, a first-grader at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School and a parishioner at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Oyster Bay, brings joy to her family every day. This Christmas, Marielle will be bringing joy to other families in the community as well.

Every year, the children in the Vasquez family get an advent calendar, and on each day in December leading up to Christmas, they get to enjoy a piece of chocolate. This year, Marielle’s grandmother, Mary Lavelle, of East Norwich, had the idea to do a “reverse” advent calendar, where, instead of receiving a gift, participants give a gift each day leading up to Christmas.

“We attend St. Dominic’s Parish, and they always collect food,” Lavelle said. “I talked to Marielle and I told her what [the reverse advent calendar] was and she said ‘Grandma, Grandma, let’s do it.”

Together they decorated a box and placed a sign on it that said, “Reverse Advent Calendar,” followed by a list of nonperishable food items to donate each day leading up to Christmas Eve. Marielle said she had a nice time decorating the box.

In the daily countdown to Christmas, Lavelle said, Marielle would run up to the box and see what she had to put in it.

“Her mom”—Michelle Vasquez — “and I purchased all the items, and she puts [them] in the box,” Lavelle said. “She just gets really excited about it.”

Marielle finished filling up her Christmas box a day early, the day before Christmas Eve, with a can of green beans added to the collection.  Later she went to St. Dominic, which has a food pantry, with her father, Christian Vasquez, and Lavelle to drop off the box.

Giving to those in need was Marielle’s favorite part of the project.

“She knows that in her advent calendar she gets something, she gets chocolate,” Lavelle said. “She knows that with the reverse advent calendar, she’s giving something to someone who is going to need it.”

The St. Dominic Catholic Church volunteer coordinator, Joan Adomsky, said that Marielle’s project was right in line with what advent is all about, calling it a “beautiful thing.”

“I commend her parents for bringing that to light, in that this is what we should be doing,” Adomsky said. “I am absolutely delighted, and I will accept the gifts and the donation with open arms.”

Lavelle describes Marielle as someone who is friendly and outgoing, and her mother, Michelle Vasquez, added that her daughter always shares, and makes sure everyone is included when she’s in school. Marielle also helps fellow classmates whose primary language is Spanish, her mother said. 

“She’s a very generous child,” Michelle said. “Even at home, she always wants to help me, and she’s there to help her [3-year-old] sister. She’s definitely a big light in her life.”

Marielle also participated in the Angel Tree program at St. Dominic, where she and her mom dropped off a gift card to a family in need.

Marielle said she hoped to inspire others to do an act of kindness as well.

“She is truly a special girl,” Lavelle said.

Marielle said she was excited to celebrate Christmas Eve with her family, who would be sampling sugar and butter cookies she made with her grandmother.

Asked if she would be leaving the cookies out for Santa Claus, Marielle said just some of them, because most of them would be up for grabs at the party. “Every Christmas Eve, that’s out tradition,” she said.