MILLVILLE -- Girl Scout Gabriella has a birthday wish, but not for herself.
Gabriella , a member of Troop 54748 in Millville, is more than a month into an effort to collect enough birthday party supplies to brighten that special day for more than 40 area children.
"Birthday-In-A-Box" is the 14-year-old's community project and, if successful, proof that she deserves scouting's Silver Award.
The "box" in the project is a package of party necessities -- from cake mix to a gift.
Gabriella , a Vineland resident, came up with the idea during a visit here to the Holly City Family Success Center.
"My mom has an outreach Girl Scout troop here, where she has meetings with younger girls," Gabriella said. "A lot of times, I'll help her with that. So, I was there and I was talking to one of the girls. I think we were actually leaving and she said, 'It's my birthday.'"
Gabriella said the girl told her she would not be having a party or even a special meal. "That totally wrenched my heart out," she said.
"It also must be a terrible feeling as a parent to know you can't provide that for a child because you don't have the means to make their birthday special," she said.
The encounter gave her an idea for her scouting project, however. In mid-March, she began organizing the drive and recruiting help from other troops and at her school, Bishop Schad Regional School in Vineland.
"I've broken it up where I'll ask different age groups of girls for different things," she said. "Like, I'll ask the Daisies to bring in cake mix. I might ask the Juniors to bring in frosting. And I did the same thing with my school, Bishop Schad. And they've really helped a lot."
Gabriella said she has a $5 limit for the gifts to avoid great disparities in gifts.
The final day for collection is being pushed into June. So far, the collection has brought in enough material to pack about 20 boxes. "Honestly, with the amount of support I'm getting, I'd like to make that much bigger," she said.
The Family Success Center, an operation of Gateway Community Action Partnership, is helping Fusco and acting as a drop-off location for donations. The boxes are coming from a UPS store in Linwood.
Jennifer D'Alessandro, the center's director, said the completed Birthday-In-A-Boxes will be distributed to families that come to the center, as well as at a Gateway center in Bridgeton.
In addition, the boxes will go to a South Jersey Healthcare System center in Vineland.
D'Alessandro said the centers keep useful data on families, including birth dates.
"We send them a birthday card," she said.
Kim Vinnick is a Girl Scout advisor to Gabriella, and her husband owns the UPS store that donated the boxes.
"It's very doable," Vinnick said. "The objects are not very expensive."
Gabriella said the project also should last beyond this year. Her school and its Samaritan Club have agreed to take it on as a continuing effort, she said.