Elizabeth Agnello couldn’t help but get emotional. She had just received an unexpected check for $2,500 from a local who, despite not having an ill child of his own, believed in the mission of her Buffalo, NY-based non-profit, Brave Little Fighters (BLF), which aims to ease the heartache, uncertainty, and fears of children with life-threatening and terminal illnesses through carefree, free-of-charge outings with their families.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Agnello said, the pure joy clearly evidenced by the crack in her voice. “We are so reliant on the generosity of our community … it’s so wonderful that our community members feel as though they can be a part of contributing to [BLF] and making it grow as much as possible.”
In addition to the generosity of her community, who Agnello said welcomed her organization with “open arms,” Agnello credits the initial seed grant she received from The Pollination Project as a reason for BLF’s success. “We gained credibility as a result of the TPP grant, and in many ways, it’s responsible for the donations we’ve received since and the additional grants that we hope to come later.”
Focused on serving families in Buffalo’s close-knit community, BLF has also received media attention, including articles in The Buffalo News, the Bee and Sun newspapers, Sweet Buffalo, the Penfield Post, Spectrum News, and Totally Buffalo. The organization, which just received its seed funding from TPP last December, has already grown to service an incredible 125 families.
“We used the TPP funds to throw a Christmas party … we had a beautiful luncheon at the American Legion. The venue was donated because the veterans were touched by our mission. We had a veteran dress up like Santa Claus, and Our Lady of Charity, a local church, donated 75 beautifully wrapped toys. Along with raising our profile, the party gave the children a wonderful outing and provided the parents and siblings of the children an opportunity to form friendships and support circles.”
Since their inception, BLF has already had an astounding 15 outings and hopes to increase that number to 22 by the end of the year. “Our mission resonates with so many Buffalonians, and we have been so fortunate to have received so many in-kind donations for the outings.”
Along with founding and running BLF, Agnello somehow also manages to work a full-time job—but she’d love for BLF to be her main gig one day. “My most sincere hope is that we will be able to achieve sustainable growth … that five years down the road, BLF is a household name. We’re achieving at a pace where that is possible. The more we welcome, the more we can do.”
So, what keeps Agnello going, especially on those days where she’s working full-time, planning outings and events, and writing grants? “I do this work because I’m so passionate about it; ever since I was a young child, I felt a strong empathy for the most vulnerable children. But, I think there might just be a little more than passion at work, too … I want to serve a purpose much greater than myself and that is contributing to the lives of children who don’t have it nearly as easy as others, but who want to be treated or looked at just like everyone else — they truly want to fit in and find a place of belonging. I think our mission helps [with that] a lot, for when they become part of the Brave family, it connects them with others facing similar levels of uncertainty and isolation.”
Agnello also shares a quote that motivates her every day, a quote that her father, who passed away of pancreatic cancer, used to say to her: “Let your reach exceed your grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
TPP is thrilled to have supported Agnello and BLF, and we know that nothing is beyond their “reach.”