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A Waterford Family's Express Wish To Give Back

The Guarnieri family has organized a special screening of The Polar Express on Sunday morning will raise funds for Operation ELF and St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, and give kids the chance to go to the movies in their PJs!

The Polar Express will be screened as a fundraiser at Niantic Cinema
The Polar Express will be screened as a fundraiser at Niantic Cinema

The Polar Express will be making a very special stop at the Niantic Cinema on Sunday, December 15, for a fundraising screening organized by a Waterford family to benefit Operation ELF and St. Jude's Children's Hospital

Melissa Guarnieri said she got the idea after attending a Veterans' Day assembly at Great Neck School in Waterford, where her son Enzo in a student. 

"It was so moving—all of the grownups on the room had tears in their eyes!" she said. "Enzo and I were talking after the assembly about Veterans' Day, and also how upset one of his classmates was that day because his dad is deployed (has been for almost 6 months now) and won't return until the spring. We just started counting our blessings and felt like, instead of just making a donation, we'd try to hold a fundraiser for families and we thought The Polar Express would be a fun event to have."

Guarnieri said she found out about Operation ELF from her neighbor, Jennifer Zito, whose children also go to Great Neck School. Operation ELF offers support to military families when a parent is deployed, including hosting special events over the holidays. Zito told her how much the organization's efforts had helped lift her children's spirits when their dad was stationed overseas last Christmas and she put Guarnieri in contact with Operation ELF.

As several students attending the school are also battling serious illnesses, the Guarnieri family decided to split the proceeds raised from the screening between Operation ELF and St. Jude's Hospital.  

The family is renting the Niantic Cinema on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The theater upgraded its equipment over the summer, so it's now possible for people who want to rent the space to show the movies of their choosing. Melissa Guarnieri said they chose The Polar Express because it's a holiday classic that many kids didn't have an opportunity to see on the big screen when it first came out. 

A local girl scout troop is donating refreshments, such as popcorn, holiday cookies and hot cocoa, and some students from Clark Lane Middle School have volunteered to help out. Tickets are $8, and kids are encouraged to come in their pajamas, just like the kids in the story. 

If all goes well, Guarnieri said, her family hopes to do the same thing again next year, perhaps with the addition of a toy or food drive. "We're trying to emphasize the giving spirit this time of year," she said.  

The theater holds 100 people, so if you'd like to reserve your seats, please email Melissa at beachrose27@gmail.com.
  
 
Paige Smith December 13, 2013 at 05:24 PM
Due to the storm, will this be rescheduled?

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