On Sunday, June 18, join Stepping Stones for Stella, a nonprofit that donates beach buggies to children with disabilities, at the JCC Freedom Run/Walk to help raise money to build even more buggies for those in need. The race will take place at 9 a.m. at Temple Emanu-El located at 393 Atlantic Avenue in Marblehead. Runners and walkers of all abilities are welcome to participate in the 5K race or a one-mile untimed walk. Shirts will be given to the first 100 people registered. Registration fees are $25 per individual (plus processing fees). To sign up, click here.
This past April, John and Eilene Grayken, global philanthropists and residents of both Boston and Cohasset, threw a fundraiser for Stepping Stones for Stella at their penthouse in Boston’s Millennium Tower, inviting others to come and learn about the organization, the people behind it, and most importantly the children’s lives it continues to better. The fundraiser raised $50,000 for the organization, which donates 100 percent of its buggies and has devoted itself to fundraising to cover the building and shipping costs for families.
“I feel like I have been introduced to angels,” says Stella’s mom Nicole Puzzo. “John and Eilene’s kindness and generosity has afforded us the opportunity to build and deliver even more buggies to children in need throughout the country. We are extremely grateful for their involvement in our cause…and, are thrilled to be able to assist more children than ever before!”
Stepping Stones for Stella was created by Nicole’s father John Banda, a retired engineer who wanted to see his granddaughter Stella enjoy the freedom of the outdoors. Stella had been previously diagnosed with cerebral palsy and her parents realized that getting her on and off the beach she loves near their home was becoming a challenge. So, Banda began experimenting and came up with the idea of a unique and easy-to-use beach buggy that would allow Stella to get right down to the water at the beach with ease. At that point, Nicole had a vision: she wanted to help other families experience this same freedom and help deliver some normalcy to those with lives that, unfortunately, have not always been so normal.
In 2012, Banda delivered the very first custom-built pink buggy to Stella. Since then, Banda, along with his daughter and her family, have provided over 230 families with beach buggies across the United States and Canada.