Franklin 11-year-old gives back

Riley Brennan, assisted by her mother, Carly, celebrates her 11th birthday by delivering canned food, paper goods and toiletry supplies — which she collected in lieu of gifts — to Holliston Pantry Shelf cofounder Sylvia Stickney.
Riley Brennan, assisted by her mother, Carly, celebrates her 11th birthday by delivering canned food, paper goods and toiletry supplies — which she collected in lieu of gifts — to Holliston Pantry Shelf cofounder Sylvia Stickney.

SPECIAL BIRTHDAY WISH: In the weeks leading up to their daughter’s 11th birthday on Aug. 7, Franklin residents Carly and Jason Brennan asked several times what gift she might like.

Finally, Riley, the oldest of four sisters, told them, “I have everything I need. I want to give to people who don’t.”

Riley’s idea to ask her party guests for donations to the Holliston Pantry Shelf in lieu of birthday gifts was based on her experience as a school council member last year at John F. Kennedy Elementary, where her fourth-grade class participated in drives collecting canned goods and winter clothing.


On her party invitations to her extended family, Riley included a list of items that are especially needed at the pantry. She then took great care in brightly decorating a large collection box with the help of her sisters, Livi, 9, Gabi, 7, and Charlotte, 4. But as she pulled off the gift wrapping from donation after donation, she realized that more boxes would be required.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

In the end, Riley donated 93 canned food, paper goods, and toiletry items to Holliston resident Sylvia Stickney, a cofounder and board member of the Holliston Pantry Shelf. Stickney, who gave Riley a tour of the facility at 23 Water St., continues to praise her generosity.

“She did such a good job, and at age 11, I think it’s even more exceptional,” Stickney said. “It was a gift to all the families,’’ she said, but also to the pantry’s volunteers, “because we get very enthused when something like this happens.”

Riley said she hopes to repeat the experience, and is excited that her sisters and cousins want to emulate her example.

“I never realized how many people need help,” Riley said. She is backed up by the Pantry Shelf’s records, which show it is assisting 217 families consisting of 483 individuals, a 24 percent increase over the past two years.


“It made me feel really good to give to others instead of getting more for me,” she said.

ONE STEP AT A TIME: When Jillian Chan of Brookline was discovered at age 19 to have Hodgkin’s lymphoma following a series of misdiagnoses, the first-semester college freshman was forced to focus on treatment instead of academics and social activities.

Now 33 and in remission, Chan provides guidance to newly diagnosed cancer patients and their families as a volunteer in the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s One-to-One telephone support program. She has also signed on as a cocaptain and virtual walker for Team One-to-One, which will participate in the 25th anniversary edition of the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk benefiting cancer care and research on Sept. 8.

Chan began volunteering with One-to-One last fall, after attending an orientation session.

“That was the first day I ever told my story out loud,” said Chan, recalling how much she would have benefited from talking with a cancer survivor when she was young and feeling so frightened and isolated. “I walked in feeling like a cancer patient and I walked out a survivor, surrounded by all these other strong people who had faced their disease head-on. It was a game-changer for me.”


In her new role, Chan strives to inspire hope, which she calls “the single best thing you can give to another cancer patient.” She is also a model of indomitable courage, preparing for a preventative mastectomy due to an exceptionally high risk of breast cancer resulting from her previous chest radiation treatments.

Chan hopes she will feel well enough after the surgery to accompany her husband, Matt Chan, in cheering on their teammates in the Jimmy Fund Walk.

“This is the institution that saved our lives, and the funds we raise continue to be important,” she said. “We all want to give back.”

For more information about the fund-raiser, visit www.jimmyfundwalk.org.

SUPPORTING MILITARY: Six local residents who are part of the Pro Bono Military Program of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts were among those recently honored for their service providing free income tax services through the Massachusetts National Guard.

They are Kristin Beane of Westborough, Judith Henry of Shrewsbury, Steve Hibbard of Weston, Mike Hourigan of Needham, Austin Poirier of Waltham, and David Welch of Wellesley.

The National Guard program offers free income tax assistance and asset-building opportunities for military members, veterans, retirees, and their families at numerous locations statewide. Since January 2012, the Pro Bono Military Program has supported 32 financial readiness events, donated 1,390 hours, and held 108 personal counseling sessions.

According to Peter Jaworski, the association’s president, having a financial plan can help reduce stress on military members and their families, especially those facing long deployments. “We are proud to participate in a program that means so much to so many people,” he said.

For more information on the organization, visit www.fpama.org.

NEW ON BOARD: Indian Hill Music of Littleton recently announced the officers on its board of directors for the next year and other changes to the board.

Jonathan Panek of Harvard was named chairman, replacing Ralph Brown of Stow. The board’s vice chairman is Jeffrey Fuhrer of Boxborough; its treasurer is Thomas Rosa of Groton; and serving as clerk is Mary Livingston of Groton.

New members Michael Hallstrom of Brookline and Melissa Maranda of Fitchburg are joining Pamela Resor, Mark Scheier, and Arthur Shane of Acton; Russ Murray and Carole Prest of Groton; Faith Cross and Jacqueline Normand of Harvard; Armand Diarbekirian of Maynard; Carolyn Cantrell, Mary Kaye, and Michael Knupp of Littleton; Jean Notis-McConarty of West Newton; John Spinello of Chelmsford; and Ryan Dunn of Brookline, N.H., on the nonprofit’s board.

Retiring as directors are Priscilla Endicott of Harvard, and Acton residents Melissa Spash Larco, Steven Levitsky, and Cynthia Sechrest. Past chairmen Brown and Robert Anderson of Groton were named honorary directors.

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@globe.com.