Valley Central High School sophomore Gianna Van Vlack was named the Town of Montgomery’s Citizen of the Month at the town board meeting on June 3. Van Vlack received the award for her “Celebrate You” Birthday in a Bag program.
The Birthday Bag is a non-profit organization that provides children in need with an opportunity to blow out candles and have a birthday celebration of their own. The entire birthday celebration is assembled and packaged in the bag. The party bag includes birthday cake mix and a baking dish, icing, birthday plates, napkins, candles, party decorations as well as a small gift. All bags are gender neutral and non age specific.
“I think that everyone deserves the chance to celebrate themselves one day a year,” Van Vlack said.
She added that the idea for the program came from a family friend. After hearing from several students that were struggling, Van Vlack decided to follow through with the program to bring a smile to their faces. Then Gianna and her mother Kristina Banasiak-Van Vlack prepared and distributed birthday bags to Fearless! Hudson Valley, Inc. as well as the Valley Central School District.
Montgomery Town Supervisor Brian Maher spoke highly of Van Vlack’s program and is excited to see what the future has in store for her.
“Really just an innovative program,” he said. “You are so young and already doing so many big things. We can’t wait to see what comes next.”
He also underscored the importance of helping members of the Montgomery community who are in need.
“Being from the Town of Montgomery we often forget because we live in a more affluent community, there are folks who live within the Town of Montgomery, within the villages, that have a tough time getting by,” Maher said. “We have a number of families that struggle every single day. And for you to go out of your way to identify the fact that these families exist and they need help and offer that help is really amazing and I commend you for it. We need more people like you Gianna.”
The Town of Montgomery Community Response Team is accepting donations to help the organization pay for its expenses. Those who wish to donate, support or learn more about the Celebrate You Birthday in a Bag Program can email the response team at email@example.com.