Thank You!

Thank you to all our incredible supporters in helping make our 5th Annual “A Night with an Angel” our most successful event to date! Check back for the posting of all professional photos taken and more information from this year’s event.

This year’s inspiring video shown at the event, featuring interviews from 15 of Emily’s friends and family:

To view all our past videos, please visit our videos page!

It’s not too late to RSVP for our 5 Year Anniversary Event!

Two easy ways to RSVP (deadline has passed, but we never turn people away):

1)  By Mail: Print out the below response card (click here for PDF version) and mail in with check payable to”Emily C. Specchio Foundation” to:

The Emily C. Specchio Foundation
c/o David A. Lewis, Esq.
52 Maple Avenue
Morristown, NJ 07960

2) Online: Send your name, address, phone, and email to (or through the contact page) along with the number/names of those attending and any seating requests. You may pay for the event ($100/person) online through paypal (click “donate” button in left column). A confirmation email will be sent for your reservation.

Thank you for your support of The Emily C. Specchio Foundation! We hope to make this anniversary year our most successful year ever!

Now accepting applications for our 2011 Ambassador Grant(s)!

The Emily C. Specchio Foundation is calling all visionary youth in the NJ/NY area to apply for our 2011 Ambassador grant. This grant awards grants to young people with big ideas on how to give back – whether it be locally or internationally. All applications are due April 1st.

What are we looking for?
The Emily C. Specchio Foundation is seeking young adults aged 18-25 living in the New Jersey/New York area with a clear vision for a community outreach project to be started/completed within a year of this grant. The project can be designed to help others either domestically or internationally.

How does the Ambassador program work?
The Emily C. Specchio Foundation is looking for inspired young people to embody our mission. The ambassador will clearly state to the Foundation their project goals and mission along with an estimated timeline and funds required. The Foundation will provide mentoring support to the ambassador to help set up a blog or website and fundraise for their cause. The ambassador must present their project ideas and progress at a minimum of three venues (schools, organizations, churches, etc.) in the New Jersey/New York area including The Emily C. Specchio annual “A Night with an Angel” banquet in May 2011. The Foundation will award $1,000 to this year’s ambassador(s), and will match money raised by the Ambassador (up to $2,500) for one year 2 to 1.

For more information and the 2011 application, please visit our Ambassador page.

The full application can be downloaded here as a PDF: ambassador application 2011

We look forward to reading all your great and inspirational ideas!

An Interview with Anna Lashley, 2009 Recipient of The Emily C. Specchio Memorial Scholarship

Anna Lashley was awarded The Emily C. Specchio Memorial Scholarship in 2009, studied abroad in Lugano, Switzerland, and graduated from Virginia Tech in 2010. She is currently spending five months volunteering at the Mercy Centre in Bangkok, Thailand. The Mercy Centre is a serene haven providing orphanages, education, HIV/AIDS care, food, and shelter to the poorest communities in Bangkok. We caught up with Anna to inverview her about her experience.

Q: How did you get involved with the Mercy Centre?

A: I was very lucky to get involved with the Mercy Centre. I have family and friends who have been to Bangkok and had interaction with Mercy in the past. During my senior year at Virginia Tech I was searching for a place to volunteer, a place where I could work with children in need, and preferably somewhere international. The Mercy Centre was suggested to me and after researching the foundation I realized it was the perfect opportunity.

Q: What are your volunteer responsibilities?

A: Wow, I will make a conscious effort to not let my answer to this question take up multiple pages of writing, which I think it easily could. Basically, as a volunteer at the Mercy Centre, my volunteer responsibilities consist of anything and everything.

This week for example, I worked at a couple different events that were put on both for and by the Mercy Centre. This involves me helping with planning and setting up prior to an event, organizing while at the event, answering any questions that people outside of Mercy may have, taking care of the children if they are also attending the event, and representing Mercy in a positive light. Usually these are a lot of fun, and have allowed me to meet amazing people from international organizations, from the UN, from other foundations, and with interests similar to mine.

I have also recently been put in charge of social media public relations, namely working with YouTube and Facebook. I have created some videos of the Mercy Centre and our children and have been trying to get the word out about our foundation in order to attract more donors and sponsors. (Be our Facebook Friend!)

I have assisted the communication office in creating brochures and pamphlets for different departments within the organization, and doing much of the email correspondence with English speaking organizations.

Of course the bulk of my work, and the most fun (!), is spent with children who live at Mercy or attend school in one of our slum kindergartens. I live in one of the Mercy Centre’s orphanages for young boys, and one main role of mine is to spend time with these boys, give them love, educate them, and help the house-moms in providing a safe, happy home for them. I eat with them, watch TV with them, play with them, take them to various activities, and act somewhere between an older sister and a mother figure to them.

Week day mornings I work in one of the kindergarten classrooms here at the Mercy Centre helping the teacher and attempting to teach basic English to the students (i.e. ABCs, 123s, days of the week, months of the year, colors, etc.). I spend the afternoon doing one-on-one teaching of all core subjects with one of our children who is being home-schooled, and then in the evenings I move  right into more teaching when I tutor our five children who received scholarships to an international school in Bangkok.

As you can see it’s a non-stop job, but I enjoy it every single day. Each week brings something new, and I am amazed at the opportunities and new experiences I have had from volunteering here.

Q: How have you changed as a person from when you first started?

A: Oh my gosh, I don’t even know if I am the same person anymore, it feels like everything has changed!

For one thing, my independence has skyrocketed. I mean, showing up to a completely foreign country, to live as one of two white people in a slum community where nobody speaks English, that’s pretty tough. I had nobody to cling to for help, I was on my own. There was a lot of frustration, loneliness, confusion, communication issues, you name it, but I got through it, and I worked to be accepted into the community. Now I feel like if I can get through this on my own, I can do anything, it’s a great feeling.

I am also a lot more appreciative. There are so many little things that I realize I am lucky to have grown up with that I never even thought about before. Hot water, clean clothes, a bed that doesn’t hurt to sleep in, meals that don’t include rice, living within an hour of my school, not having to share toys with 40 other children. The greatest part though, is that while I’ve come to appreciate these things more, I’ve also come to realize how unnecessary they are. I no longer think, worry, or complain about little things that used to be on my mind, I now understand how insignificant they are, and that the problems I thought I had really do not matter. There are so many more important things that people in the world have to worry about, life essentials such as where they’re going to sleep, what they’re going to eat, if they will receive an education or not. The issues I thought I had when I was back in the U.S. never compared to any of these.

A third major change in me is that I am a lot more learned than I was when I first arrived. I have not taken any classes, or received any instruction, but I have been privileged to an enormous amount of invaluable information. I have learned, from witnessing first-hand, about living in the slums of Thailand, about street children, child trafficking, prostitutes, AIDs, but I have also learned wonderful information about Thai culture, traditions, family life, and the inner-workings of the community. All of this knowledge has absolutely had an affect on me, and has made me a new person.

The other day one of the house-moms criticized me on not bending over while walking past adults who were sitting – as this is a known procedure done out of respect. As she was making the comment she explained that I am a Thai-woman now, and need to do as other Thais do. This is one of the greatest compliments I could have gotten. I have listened, observed, learned, and have taken everything in, and have been accepted into part of the Thai community.

So I guess a shorter way of answering your question would have been: so many things have changed about me that I have adapted into a new, very happy and content person.

Q: You hadn’t had the opportunity to travel much before studying abroad in Lugano. How much did traveling around Europe through the Lugano study abroad program at Virginia Tech play a part in your ambition to start your current position?

A: Honestly, going abroad to Lugano, and having the opportunity to travel around Europe played an absolutely essential part to me getting to where I am now. I had never been out of the country before going to Lugano, and as soon as I began traveling I realized I was never going to be able to stop.

America is a great country, but I think that so many people never really realize how big the world is, and how many things there are to see and learn outside of the it. I was given the chance to acknowledge that what I wanted more than anything was to travel the world and learn about the people, the cultures, and the major issues surrounding them. I don’t want to learn things from books in class, I want to see them, to feel them, to hear about them from the people who experienced them first hand.

Going to Lugano taught me this, and helped me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I can truly say that I do not know if I would be sitting here, in my room in the orphanage in Bangkok, if I had never studied abroad.

Q: What you are doing now reminds us much of something Emily might have pursued post-college. Did your scholarship, interaction with the foundation, and learning Emily’s story help inspire you to travel even more and make a difference?

A: Absolutely! As I said before, going to Lugano was what made me realize how badly I wanted to travel more and learn more about the world, and that would not have been possible without being awarded the Emily C. Specchio Scholarship! However, I not only discovered my love of traveling through the scholarship, I also developed a new sense of purpose.

After hearing about the beauty and kindness Emily possessed, I was honored to be chosen as a recipient of the scholarship. Emily did so much for others in her short life and I really did feel inspired and as though it was my duty to do great good for people around the world with her in mind. I believe that Emily’s family, and everyone at the foundation, select scholarship recipients based on people they think Emily would be proud to have do work in her name, and I hope that I am living up to being one of these people.

Q: What are your career plans and goals after this international experience?

A: It’s hard to imagine leaving my life here and returning back to America to face the real world as a college graduate. I could easily just stay here and continue doing what I am doing, but I suppose I cannot work as an unpaid volunteer forever.

Following my time here in Bangkok I plan to attend law school and focus on international law and human rights. I hope that with the knowledge of the law I will be able to return to Thailand, or another country with similar human rights issues, and make a tangible difference in combating the problems head on. I believe that I primarily want to focus on children’s rights. There are children around the world who need protection, education, and people to fight for them, and I would like to aid in giving them these important things.

From what I’ve seen over the past many months, children in these dire situations really do want to improve their lives. They really want to be educated and do not want to follow in the footsteps of their parents, or whomever was responsible for them being where they are now. All they need is a chance, an opportunity to get off the street, get an education, have a normal life. My career goal, as ambitious as it is, is to give as many children this chance as I can.

Q; How can people learn more about the Mercy Centre and your experience abroad?

A: To learn more about the Mercy Centre people can visit the foundation’s website at . There is a lot of really great information on there about what the Mercy Centre does, pictures and stories about our children, and how people can sponsor children or donate money.

There are a lot of ways for people to help, and the children of Thailand need as much help as they can get. I encourage everyone to look into the information that the Mercy Centre has to offer, and to think about making a donation. I can attest to seeing first-hand that donations and sponsorships really do go straight to the children, and that the people at Mercy do everything they can to give these children a better life.

We wish Anna the best of luck through the rest of her volunteering and future endeavors! We invite you all to leave comments & well wishes below!

Happy New Year!

2010 was a fantastic and very productive year for the Emily C. Specchio Foundation thanks to your support! We truly have a lot to be thankful for.

With your help, the Emily C. Specchio Foundation has made major strides towards our mission of empowering youth to make a difference. Our accomplishments for this year include:

  • The selection of four Virginia Tech students with excellent records of leadership, scholarship, and community service to award the endowed Emily C. Specchio Memorial scholarship, bringing the total scholarships award since inception to 17!
  • Funding twelve young women entrepreneurs from around the world through Kiva no-interest microloans, bringing our total entrepreneurs supported to 24.
  • Donation of a new Panasonic laptop computer (courtesy of Jay Caldas) to the Mother Patern School of Health Sciences Library in Monrovia, Liberia for the new Masters Program in Nursing Education.
  • Helping Sister Prisca Nwogu, R.N., College of Saint Elizabeth Alum, in her humanitarian project to build a hospital in Evbuotubu Village, Nigeria, which will serve nearly 1 million people who currently have no nearby medical facilities.

Thank you all for your continuing support!! We hope to have an even bigger and more successful 2011. Happy New Year!

2011 Emily C. Specchio Memorial Scholarship Recipients

We proudly announce the 2011 recipients of the Emily C. Specchio Memorial Scholarship at Virginia Tech. This year we were able to fund the study abroad costs for FOUR students! All of the students will be studying abroad in Lugano, Switzerland this spring.

John Specchio and Kate Specchio Barrientos with the 2011 Scholarship Recipients
Brandon Collins

Brandon is a Virginia Tech Junior double majoring in accounting and marketing. He is a brother of Pi Kappa Phi, and is involved in community service supporting PUSH America, Relay for Life, and the Special Olympics.

Ashley Eliasoph

Ashley is a Virginia Tech Junior majoring in Psychology with a Marketing cognate, and a member of the Alpha Phi sorority. She has spent 7 straight summers volunteering on mission trips to Sneedville, Tennessee and is also been involved in Relay for Life, Greeks Giving Back, and Our Neighbor’s Child.

Emily Smalling

Emily is a Virginia Tech Junior honors student majoring in Communications with a minor in Political Science and a Marketing cognate. She is a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha fraternity. She traveled to Nicaragua over her last two spring breaks to work with orphans and refugees through the Nicaragua Orphan Fund.

Jillian Smith

Jillian is a Virginia Tech Junior honors student majoring in Marketing Management with a minor in Business Leadership, and a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority. She volunteers at Gilbert Linkous Elementary, tutors at Blacksburg Estates Mobile home park, Relay for Life, and Pamplin Ambassadors.

Ashley, Brandon, and Emily at Emily’s memorial bench located at the Virginia Tech Duckpond

For more photos of our trip to Virginia Tech to meet the recipients, check out our photo gallery here!

An Interview with our 2010 Ambassador, Janet Latuga

Our 2010 Emily C. Specchio Ambassador grant is awarded to Janet Latuga, a senior marketing major at Fairfield University. The grant will support Janet’s project involving the selling of crafts by artisans from Mayasa, Nicaragua to help support and expand their business. Families that live in the rural sector of this small city have passed on the traits and skills required to produce crafts of varying size, shape, and detail; however, despite the extraordinary talents of the artisans and quality of their products, their impoverished location restricts their ability to sell to bigger markets.

Janet learned of this community through a research project with Professor Tellis of Fairfield, and took on the task of helping the artisans expand their market by importing their crafts and selling them at various events in the US. Janet traveled to Mayasa in February 2010 to meet with the artisans in person, as well as meet with Nitlapan, the microfinance institution that works with the artisans to fund their work.

Her goal with our grant is to allow the artisans to expand their businesses by importing their items to the US and to make this model sustainable at Fairfield after she graduates. We recently spoke with Janet and learned even more about her past experiences, project updates, and goals for the future.

Q: How did you learn of the artisans in Nicaragua and where did you get the idea for your project?

Janet Latuga: I learned about the artisans in Nicaragua from Professor Tellis.  He is an information systems professor in the School of Business at Fairfield University.  He also was the person who gave me the idea to bring the crafts here and sell them at campus events.  My freshman year, he had brought in a selection of the crafts and sold them at one event he ran.  I remembered him telling my class about the crafts, so when he suggested that idea for my project, I thought it was terrific.

Q: You traveled to Nicaragua to meet the people in these communities face to face. Describe what you saw during this trip and how it may have changed your outlook of the world.

JL: Meeting the artisans was an unforgettable experience.  Their houses had dirt floors and wild dogs running throughout the area.  Their houses were all very close together, and they did not have the large property space that can be found in the U.S.  It really made me realize all the things I take for granted.  I never thought about the importance of hard wood floors or insulation.  I take air conditioning for granted, but these luxuries are not afforded to the families I met.  It made me realize that people in America live a very sheltered life.  We don’t realize what it’s like for families in other cultures and countries.

Q: Describe how your project makes an impact for the artisans and their communities in Nicaragua.

JL: The artisans were looking for an outlet in the U.S.  They wanted to find a way to sell more of their crafts to help their business flourish, and my project does just that.  I’m not taking profits from the items I sell.  I use the money from the crafts I sell to re-order more products from them.  They need more outlets to sell their crafts in order to make a living, and I created that for them.

Q: Your goal is to make this project sustainable at Fairfield. How do you plan to make this a reality?

JL: My goal has already started becoming a reality.  I’ve already spoken to two student groups on campus about my project, and I have begun to get volunteers.  I’m also speaking with the faculty of the school of business in December about my project.  I hope that they will be able to get a class involved in managing and maintaining my project.  They recently added an entrepreneurship concentration to the school of business, and I feel as though my project would be a great project for one of those classes.

Q How can others follow your progress and contribute to this project?

JL: I’ve started a blog online at  This is a great way for people to see what I’ve been doing and offer suggestions.

Q: How has the Emily C. Specchio Ambassador program helped you to make this community service project a reality?

JL: The foundation has been a great help to me already.  I just started my blog this year.  I had never even thought of the idea until I was involved in the Ambassador program.  I also was not doing any fundraising before because I did not have the help of a foundation, but now through the program, I’ll be able to raise money to leave future students with enough capital to keep my project going.

The Emily C. Specchio Ambassador program is committed to empowering young people to make a difference. Thank you for you support of our foundation that allows programs like this a reality.

Building a playground at Kopila Valley Children’s Home

The Emily C. Specchio Foundation is excited to announce a new project and collaboration with BlinkNow, a non-profit organization founded by Maggie Doyne, an alumna of Mendham High School (where Emily also attended school). After high school Maggie traveled extensively and was overwhelmed with the number of orphans growing up in war-torn Nepal. Believing in the power of the individual, Maggie founded BlinkNow and raised the funds to create an orphanage and school for these children in need. Three years ago she built Kopila Valley Children’s Home, where she helps care for over 30 children. This year she directed the construction of a primary school which will provide for the town of Surkhet, Nepal and surrounding communities.

We have decided to partner with Maggie on her next large project – the construction of a playground for the school using recycled materials! More details to come….. stay tuned!

Establishment of The Emily C. Specchio Academic Excellence Award at Montclair State

The Specchio Family has established and funded the Emily C. Specchio Academic Excellence Award at Montclair State University (MSU). This award will be  given to a graduate student in the American Dietetic Association Dietetic Internship program at Montclair State who demonstrates academic excellence and leadership.

This year’s scholarship was presented to Irina Ogan. Irina has her first bachelor’s degree in Biology from Rutgers University and her second in Dietetics from MSU. She also holds a Masters of Science from UMDNJ. Irina’s past experience includes working as a medical assistant and as an assistant nutrition educator at Beth Israel Medical Center. During her internship, Irina impressed many of her preceptors, one commenting that she was one of the most intelligent, motivated, & professional interns she had worked with, and showed a clear enthusiasm for learning.

Congrats Irina!

Thank You!

Thank you all for making this year’s “A Night with an Angel” such an astounding success. We are proud to say this was our biggest event ever with over 270 people in attendence! Visit our photos page for the event photos (or Picasa for saving/slideshow of photos) and videos page for the slideshow shown at the event (also below).

This year’s “A Night with an Angel” slideshow: a tribute to Emily and Foundation updates.

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