AK Foundation celebrates commitment of SHU student first responders

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — A charity in honor of the victims of the Seton Hall residence hall fire donated $22,500 to enable scholarships for Seton Hall students who are devoting their lives to careers as first responders. The donation was presented by Jason Tarantino, Mike Merizio and Jim Merizio to Tracy Gottlieb, vice president of student services.

“We are so grateful to the Aspiring Kindness Foundation for their continued support of Seton Hall University and our students,” Gottlieb said in a press release. “This year’s grant of $22,500 will be dedicated for scholarships to upperclass students who have a commitment to first-responder roles. This is a wonderful way to ensure the stability of the next generation of first responders. Seton Hall University and our students are deeply indebted to their generous spirit.”

The Aspiring Kindness Foundation was created by high school friends of Boland Hall fire victim Aaron Karol to honor him and Frank Caltabilota and John Giunta, the other young men who died in the January 2000 fire. The money was raised at the foundation’s fourth annual golf outing in June 2016.

The Aspiring Kindness Foundation is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit public corporation that has raised more than $100,000 to support first responders, emergency service providers, and fire prevention and education programs.

“After last year’s fire exercise, we wanted to do something different,” Tarantino, the foundation’s president, said in the release. “We feel this scholarship is a great idea because it recognizes Aaron and celebrates his life and also recognizes first responders and emergency service providers.”

Aspiring Kindness Foundation wanted to provide these four scholarships of $5,625 to the university, explained Jim Merizio, because “we wanted to connect these scholarships to Seton Hall students and to acknowledge the first responders commitment to a life of service.”

“The annual memorial mass, the remembrance garden and ringing of the bells lets everyone remember, even after 17 years, and share the story and the importance of fire safety,” Mike Merizio said in the release.

The foundation has its next fundraising event on March 26, a New Jersey Devils event, and the fifth annual golf outing at the Forest Hill Field Club in Bloomfield is scheduled for June 19. To learn more about these events and the foundation, visit www.aspiringkindness.org.