Winners of The Tablet’s COVID Relief Fundraiser Earned a Big Surprise: Larger-Than-Life Checks!

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Catholic Education, Faith, Inspiration, Msgr. David Cassato, Queens, NY, St. Athanasius Catholic Academy, The Tablet's COVID Relief Fundraiser

By Emily Drooby

A big surprise and a big check for three Catholic school students in the Diocese of Brooklyn! The Tablet Newspaper’s COVID Relief Fundraiser top sellers earned a unique visit for their hard work.

The goal was to sell as many newspaper subscriptions as they could. With 48 subscriptions, fifth-grader Noelle Pianoforte of St. Athanasius Catholic Academy in Bensonhurst took home the grand prize: a $3,000 check.

“I can’t even explain how I’m feeling,” she said. “I’m just so happy about it.”

Her mom, Kristy, says a huge portion of the money is going to next year’s tuition.

“She worked hard, so it’s good that she got to see her hard work pay off,” Kristy said.

As for Noelle, the real prize was helping her school.

“Raising money for your school isn’t really that hard,” she said. “It’s just fun and it’s really exciting.”

For every subscription sold, the schools got five dollars. That made principals like Diane Competello of St. Athanasius both grateful and proud.

“It’s so nice to see that spirit in a child,” Diane said. “She wants to give back. She wanted something for the school. She wanted something for her family. She really, really stepped up to the plate.”

The big checks were dropped off personally by The Tablet’s Marketing and Circulation Manager, John Alexander, who spearheaded the fundraiser.

“So heartening, and it’s so rewarding,” John said. “Just to see their faces, their happy faces, to know they accomplished something, something that again not only benefits them, but benefits their school and their families.”

Second place went to eighth-grader Jias Jordan with 40 subscriptions.

“I’m kind of just astonished that I got 2,000 dollars,” Jias said.

On top of that, he also got a bonus from his school. St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy in Ozone Park also awarded him for being the top student and gave him one month of free tuition.

“I saw that you could get one month free of tuition,” Jias said. “So I just decided to do it to help financially my family.”

Third place went to third-grader Santiago Diniz of St. Sebastian Catholic Academy in Woodside.

“I was so happy,” Santiago said. “I actually won!”

His 22 subscriptions earned him a $1,000 bonus.

He had a unique selling strategy with his mom.

“We just made a video elevator pitch,” Santiago said. “My mom sent it as a text message to everyone we knew.”

In total, $20,000 dollars was given away to the students and $11,000 to the schools. However, Msgr. David Cassato, Vicar for Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn, said the help is priceless.

“Everybody today is struggling financially, I don’t care who you are,” Msgr. Cassato said. “Every church is struggling financially, every school is struggling financially, and you know what they say, every little bit helps. A little bit here, a little bit there. It pays tuition, it keeps the school electric bill paid.”

There were more winners. Two schools also won $3,000 bonuses for having the highest amount of sellers.

St. Francis De Sales Catholic Academy of Belle Harbor, Queens, won in the “large school” category and St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, won in the “small school” category.

The Tablet Newspaper has plans to relaunch the fundraiser next school year.