f5b46837-b91d-497c-89c0-da99c2f32751-550?v=1

The Gift of Hope

with Paulette Laurenzi and the Spring Lake Hope Foundation

In her 21st year as a successful corporate banker, Paulette Laurenzi’s life took a sudden turn. With her father ill and the birth of her son, she knew a major change was in store for herself and her family. Shifting focus, she became a toy retailer, and Spring Lake Toys was born.

From the beginning, Spring Lake Toys was not just any toy retailer. Paulette had a vision of purpose for her toys. 

She started by giving away toys to hospitals. At one particularly inspirational visit, Paulette witnessed a miracle of sorts while giving wrapped toys to a sweet little girl with cancer. The doctor whispered that it would be unlikely that she’d be able to go home for Christmas. The gift of the toys lifted her spirits so much that she did get home for Christmas with her family. 

Witnessing small miracles like that helped Paulette define her mission: she wasn't just selling toys, she was going to bring joy and hope to children with serious illnesses.

From toys to a foundation 

“I changed the name to Spring Lake Toys Foundation,” Laurenzi shared, “and within several months I had our first gala.” 

With that, the foundation was fully launched. 

“In 2016, our mission was 99% toys. We gave toys to lift the spirits of children with serious and rare illnesses. Then I added a medical component - just 1% of what we did at that time was to help pay for medical expenses not covered by insurance. So, that is how we started.”

As time passed, the mission of the foundation evolved. 

“There are so many things that are not covered by insurance,” Paulette explained, “so, we started to do so much more on the medical side.”
The foundation began to provide different therapies including elective therapies not covered by insurance, like stem cell therapy. They also covered additional OT and PT to help make a child healthier.

Soon, the foundation provided adaptable strollers and wheelchairs, followed by adaptable car seats and tricycles. Big things continued with the funding of mechanical lifts.

Bringing hope

“We heard about a girl who literally had to stay in her basement because there was no way to get her to the main level,” said Paulette. “Her nurse could not carry her, so she was in the basement with the nurse without amenities.” 

Paulette reached out to NJ-based Able-Care to create a solution. 

“Now, when she gets off the bus she can wheel onto a mechanical lift, which is kind of like a little mini elevator to the main level. We installed a cement sidewalk so that she can wheel into the house to access her kitchen, her bedroom, her bathroom, and all the amenities that she needs are right there for her.”

This incredible moment led to the provision of more mechanical lifts for seriously ill children with Able-Care. They then helped fund handicapped vans. Some projects are funded by the Spring Lake Hope Foundation, some with the help of other charities. They also partner with the state of New Jersey to secure grants and loans.

The Santucci family

The foundation was introduced to a very special family this past year– the Santucci family from Fair Lawn. 

Three of the four Santucci children suffer from a rare genetic disorder called Leukodystrophy. The foundation helped provide a mechanical lift and an accessible van for the family.

“On one of my visits to see the family, the Mom explained that she couldn’t get her son into the kitchen.” Paulette continued. “The hallways were so narrow that she couldn't wheel him in. They couldn't carry him. It was just so heartbreaking.” Paulette knew the foundation could help make their home accessible. 

Soon, a home renovation was funded. Over 25 companies donated materials and labor. With these contributions, and the money the foundation raised, they finished the project together. 

“Pietro Barberi and Frank Forcino of GTL Construction donated their time and labor. They were wonderful. I’m so grateful to them to help seamlessly put this all together.”

The Azzolina/Ragazzo Family

Recently, the foundation partnered with the state of New Jersey to help a family in Maywood. 

This wonderful family has twin boys, Geo and Dominic, who have Duchenne muscular dystrophy - another rare illness. The boys are becoming wheelchair dependent as they age.

The foundation stepped in to provide a mechanical lift and a handicap van to help the family. 

A new name for the foundation

This year, a large project for the foundation is taking place in Middletown, NY, followed by one in Dumont, New Jersey for 2024. The foundation was clearly evolving, and its name needed to, also.

It wasn't about toys - it was about giving hope. The Spring Lake Toy Foundation became the  Spring Lake Hope Foundation.

In 2016, the foundation was 99% toys and 1% medical. Today, the foundation is 99% medical and 1% toys. They are growing regionally with recent projects helping families in New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Ohio. 

A mission of many

“Board members play a huge role,” says Paulette, “like honorary Board Advisor, Mike Fratello.”

Fratello is one of the highest winning basketball coaches in the US and the recipient of the MBA Lifetime Achievement Award. He was able to help with a donation when an Ohio family reached out to the foundation through social media.

The Board of Advisors for the Spring Lake Hope Foundation is growing as well. It's now a larger strategic and philanthropic board. Each advisor and member is instrumental to the foundation’s success.

“Salvator Frassetto and I started this board with nothing, and now we have over 30 members,” shares Paulette. “Sal is the chairman of Saddleback Real Estate Developers and chairman of the Board of Advisors at the foundation. He has been a wonderful asset. I always say, ‘Sal, I could never do all this without you’.”

Fundraising is key

The foundation has had seven annual galas, so far. They sell out, which has created additional events, like their first golf outing. They are looking forward to their  “Evening in Italy” event on April 24th, 2024 at the Indian Trail Club in Franklin Lakes.

So, why is it named Spring Lake? 

Paulette explains, “Back in the day, Spring Lake was my favorite beach town! When I started Spring Lake Toys, our first toy customers were in Spring Lake. We kept the name because it is now recognized. We're actually headquartered here in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.

Bringing hope

The Bergen County-based foundation is truly bringing hope to so many families, and Paulette could not be more thrilled with the impact they are making. 

“I just love all these families. It means a lot to me to be growing and helping more and more families. I'm blessed with a whole community around me. It takes a village. Like, Inserra Supermarkets. They’ve been instrumental in helping us bring hope from the beginning, through support and sponsoring galas.”

“Our two boards and volunteers are amazing. I probably manage over 85 people right now, and every one of them is amazing. I couldn't do this without my treasurer, Karen Rutherford. She is so instrumental in what we do. The whole community around me shares the same vision and passion as me, and it's wonderful.”

With this incredible team, the foundation is bringing hope. 

“We're helping so many children and the families are so grateful. We're changing people's lives. We're giving hope to people - that’s really what we are doing.”
*If you are inspired and also wish to help bring hope, you can find out about volunteer opportunities, upcoming events, and how to make a donation on the Foundation’s website. 

springlakehope.org

“I just love all these families. It means a lot to me to be growing and helping more and more families. I'm blessed with a whole community around me."

“We're helping so many children and the families are so grateful. We're changing people's lives. We're giving hope to people - that’s really what we are doing.”

Related Businesses

The Nelson-Atkins Museum

Community Services

The Nelson-Atkins Museum

Kansas City, MO

The Nelson-Atkins is a comprehensive art museum with works of art dating from ancient to contemporary.

Chandler City Lifestyle

Special Events

Chandler City Lifestyle

Phoenix, AZ

The magazine is committed to bringing the "good news" of Chandler to the community. Every month we share the best stories...

See More

Related Articles

See More