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November 9, 2010 > Fremont boy uses Facebook to help relief effort

Fremont boy uses Facebook to help relief effort

By Alyson Whitaker

Since its inception, Facebook has been a vehicle for connecting people. Whether it's giving teenagers a mode to keep up with classmates, helping individuals find long-lost friends, or connecting businesses and potential clients, Facebook is the "go-to" site for many. But for 12-year old Angelo Tomassi of Fremont, the site has become a vehicle for assisting in the relief efforts for a local disaster.

Angelo created the Facebook page, "Help San Bruno Fire Victims," back in September 9 after watching the news coverage of the gas explosion that demolished an entire neighborhood in the town.

Although the Tomassi family has no direct ties to San Bruno, they know the devastation a fire can bring. In February 1999, the family home was destroyed by a fire, started in their garage. Angelo was just a baby, and has no recollection of the nine months the family spent living in a hotel. But he has felt the long-term effects of what was lost-precious memorabilia and irreplaceable mementos, in addition to the more practical items like clothing and household necessities.

So as Angelo sat on the couch on September 9 with his mom Andrea, he knew he couldn't just sit by and do nothing. He turned to his mom and asked what they could do. Andrea offered a couple of ideas such as going through their clothing, etc. to donate. Wanting to do more, Angelo enthusiastically suggested creating a Facebook page to help. Within minutes, he had created the page "Help San Bruno Fire Victims" and before the night was over, the offers of help started pouring in. "I wanted to make a page to keep everyone aware of what happened and support the families, but then it just sort of exploded into a whole lot more!"

The day after the fire, a couple of local radio stations got wind of the page, and heard that the family was using their business, Finish Line Towing in Santa Clara, as a drop site for donations. Donations of clothing began to arrive. Then an email came in from Gloria Bruner, owner of Dolce Little Bake Shop in Livermore. She was so moved by Angelo's page, she wanted to do something to help. She graciously donated 200 gourmet cupcakes for the Tomassi family to distribute to those whom they felt could most use a sweet treat. Angelo and his mom delivered six boxes of cupcakes to San Bruno firefighters. Andrea says, "The cupcakes were almost too beautiful to eat!" The remaining cupcakes were sold at a benefit concert organized by Capuchino High School sophomore Koreena Walsh, with all proceeds going to the victims' relief fund.

The biggest challenge has been keeping up with the constantly changing needs. As needs are identified, Angelo updates the page to reflect the most current information.

Danielle Brewer is the manager of San Bruno Community Services Department. She reached out to Angelo with a need for 200 lunches and dinners in the days following the fire, for both the fire victims and the many volunteers working in the devastated neighborhood. Within a couple of hours, offers came in to help. Some were from local residents with direct ties to San Bruno, others were from as far away as New Jersey. Within 5 hours, Vonda Walsh in New Jersey and Joannie Loobey and Debbie Newman here in California rallied together and arranged for more than 200 lunches and 575 dinners to be donated by local restaurants and catering companies, including Debbie Newman's business "Debbie's Catering".

Now that the immediate needs have slowed, attention has turned to what can be done to help the residents and community rebuild. Through small acts of kindness, lives are influenced for the better. "Project Business Card" is an event being promoted by Angelo's page. Four-year old Jaden Ashley of San Bruno lost his collection of business cards to smoke damage - a collection that he used to create artwork and designs. While the family home was not destroyed in the fire, most of the contents had to be disposed of due to the severe smoke damage. While some items are easily replaced, Jaden had been working on his collection for months. Angelo received word from Kenn Lipke about the young boy and created an "event" for people to participate in. It wasn't long before business cards started arriving. The donation period runs through December 31 and Angelo is excited to be able to present young Jaden with a much larger collection than he had before the fire.

Angelo and his mom are also in the early planning stages of several benefit events to be held over the next year to continue to support and uplift the community.

Angelo is a 7th grader at Fremont Christian School. A normal kid by all appearances, Angelo has an exceptionally big heart and sensitive spirit, and has always looked for opportunities to help others. His life is busy with school, hanging out with friends, and other typical activities for a boy his age. Most of his spare time is now filled with keeping up with the Facebook page and the offers for help that continue to arrive daily. His mom monitors the page while he's at school, and then Angelo takes over in the afternoon/evening hours.

Andrea feels that Angelo was put here on earth with a special purpose. At age 23 with two young children, Andrea opted to undergo a tubal ligation. She and her husband Dino wanted to be able to provide a financially secure future for their young family and felt that two children were plenty. Seven years later, Andrea was suffering from prolonged flu-like symptoms. She was shocked to find out that she was expecting a third child-a boy they named Angelo. Andrea is grateful everyday for the surprise arrival of this special young man. "We're all going to leave the world someday. When I leave this earth, I will have learned more from Angelo than I have ever given to him."

Angelo doesn't feel that he did anything extraordinary. He also says, "You're never too young to do something to help." Through his Facebook page, hundreds of people have been able to offer support, service, donations, and encouragement to the San Bruno community.

Visit Angelo's Facebook page "Help San Bruno Fire Victims" for up to date information on current needs and events. If you'd like to donate business cards to "Project Business Card," send them c/o Diane Nichols, Finish Line Towing, Inc., 1517 Memorex Drive, Santa Clara, CA 95050.

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