If you walked down the halls of the Mack Student Center on Tuesdays this semester, you might have seen some classes going on. They were part of the CMA Live Wire program, a program for adults with different forms of autism and developmental abilities. The classes focused on dance, art and technology once a week for six weeks through the fall.
In those classes was Brittany Schiavone, a 27-year old student, musical theater fan and entrepreneur. Schiavone launched her own business in 2014, a nonprofit organization called Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, which delivers baskets to families who have a baby with Down syndrome – a cause important to Schiavone, because she has Down syndrome herself.
The baskets are filled with baby clothes, toys and information for parents and family members about Down syndrome. As the mission statement of Brittany’s Baskets of Hope says, “In a time of uncertainty and apprehension these baskets are intended to bring both resources to the family, as well as hope for the future.” The idea came from Schiavone seeing a video on YouTube of something similar, and a year later she was sending baskets and boxes all over the country.
“All the parents have to have resources, always,” Schiavone said. “And we send pacifiers and bottles and food, too.” When a request for a basket comes in, all of those things and more are put into it. Everything is donated from small businesses and then sent to the family who needs it, which could be as close as in Schiavone’s hometown of Huntington or as far as the California coast.
The nonprofit is a family affair, with Schiavone’s father serving as the president and mother and older brother as co-vice presidents. “It was slow to evolve, but we kind of figured out how to do it. Brittany decided what she wanted to do and then it was about a year getting it off the drawing board,” Sue Schiavone said.
But now Brittany’s Baskets is thriving – boxes and baskets are being shipped all over the country. “Originally the idea was for it to be local, but it’s evolved to where we send more baskets to states across the country than Long Island,” said Ashley Asti, a good friend of Schiavone’s and the secretary of the nonprofit.
With each basket that gets sent out, the positive feedback floods in. One mother expecting a child with Down syndrome said, “Thank you so much! Knowing that I have support and people who understand and listen makes me feel so much better. You guys don't understand what you're doing for expecting parents like myself.” She’s in good company; Brittany’s Baskets has over 600 likes on Facebook with countless other positive comments.
When Schiavone saw the video that gave her the idea for Brittany’s Baskets of Hope she said, “What the heck? I can do that.” Two years later, she’s proved that she could.