By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – The mood was celebratory the afternoon of Aug. 26 at Dean Park in Shrewsbury as hundreds of people came to celebrate Maya Terrades’ 13th birthday. However, it was not just a party for Maya but rather one to celebrate all children’s birthdays and to promote love, acceptance and inclusion of all kids.
The idea for the party came about after local Realtor and philanthropist Andrea Castinetti read a message posted on Facebook by Maya’s mom, Sabina. In that post, Sabina shared how none of the invitees showed up for her daughter’s birthday party. For Maya, who is autistic, it was heartbreaking. For Sabina, it was not only gut-wrenching but also frustrating, as this had also happened once before.
When Castinetti read the post, she immediately sprang into action. As the head of the local nonprofit, The Kindness Coalition of Massachusetts, she was able to quickly utilize her resources and organize an event that would not only celebrate Maya but also promote love and acceptance of kids of all abilities.
It took three weeks and a team of about 40 volunteers to make the picnic happen. Many businesses and individuals donated their time and items for a raffle that benefitted the coalition’s work and helped defray some of the costs of the event.
“One little post on Facebook became such a huge thing. Andrea has been amazing and people have been amazing. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness for kids with special needs and kids that are being bullied,” shared Sabina.
“Stuff like this just restores your faith in humanity,” Castinetti said.
DJ Arnie Hamm emceed the picnic and State Sen. Michael Moore (D- Millbury) provided brief opening remarks. Other notable persons in attendance include Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. and Shrewsbury Selectman Beth Casavant.
The event also featured musical acts, a magic show with Steve Charette, face painting, kids’ yoga, Zumba, games, crafts and painting Kindness Rocks. Attendees were also asked to donate school supplies in lieu of birthday gifts for the coalition’s “Fill the Shelves” project.