Join us for a bowling fundraiser to support our efforts

Our first fundraiser is on the calendar, so save the date… Sunday, October 1. We will be hosting a bowling event at Empire Lanes in Webster from 11 am till 1 pm.

Cost is $25 per adult, $15 per child and a max of $90 per family.

We also have sponsorships available. Businesses will receive their logo on signage at the event, as well as a spotlight post on our Facebook page and their logo linked on our website.

Gold level also receives a dedicated business lane – includes six bowler registrations for $300.
Silver level includes four bowler registrations for $200.
Bronze level includes two bowler registrations for $100.

Register to bowl here.  | Register as a sponsor here


40 families this year

We’ve got all our lists in and are so excited to report that we are helping 40 families this year – seven more than last year! We have grown so much in our three years of Making Spirits Bright and we owe it all to you, our generous supporters.

Here’s the link if you haven’t stumbled upon it elsewhere:
Thank you all for being a part of this journey with us and for believing in paying it forward. We’re so grateful!

2016 efforts are underway

Fall is here, which means Making Spirits Bright efforts have begun.

We have reached out to our school contacts and are in the process of identifying the families we’ll be working with this year. By the end of October our wish lists should be up and ready. In the meantime, we have launched our crowdfunding campaign, with hopes of raising money to help supply our families with food and any needed items that aren’t donated by the end of our campaign.

We are also actively pursuing new businesses, organizations and groups to adopt families through our organization. We’re looking to businesses, large and small, as well as church groups, school organizations, scouting organizations, moms’ clubs, etc. If you would like to adopt a family, please reach out to us at

To give you a sense of what that would entail… each family member will receive four needs and three wants, so to adopt a family of three you’d be collecting 21 items, a family of four would require 28 items, etc.

Efforts are underway to make spirits bright in 2015!

Hi everyone! Just wanted to give a quick update on things from this end. We had a tremendous outpouring of support last year and the event we put on was just spectacular! The outpouring of support we received allowed us to assist 13 families, three more than we expected. Thank you to everyone who helped make 2014 such a success!

Despite our best efforts, our core group cannot take on the commitment of putting on another huge event like last year’s. That said, the main priority was to give deserving families a holiday they may not have otherwise. That goal remains the same this year and will be met – with enthusiasm!

There will still be plenty of opportunity to donate items and/or money to help the cause. There will also still be a gift-wrapping event, which was extremely well attended last year. While the event was truly wonderful, there was a great deal of work and a lot of overhead associated with it. Not hosting that will allow MSB to focus attention solely on supporting our families – and will allow us to assist a great deal more of them.

In addition to contributing to the families’ needs and wish lists, there will also be a new area in which you can volunteer this year. Santa’s helpers will be called upon to help deliver gifts to each family in the days leading up to Christmas. More information will be shared about this as we get closer to the holidays, but we hope you’ll consider helping out in that regard.

The search process is underway to identify the families MSB will be helping this year. Stay tuned for more updates on that very soon!

Finding the motivation to make spirits bright

I (Jeanette) have finally gotten around to writing my blog post that has been swirling around in my head for weeks. It’s a long one but worth the read…

As we come closer to our end result for Making Spirits Bright, I have realized my motivation is twofold. Of course I want to help our families have something they couldn’t without us, but I have also wanted to invoke change in my friends and family who aren’t buying into our cause. My sister has given me the push to put this into words.

Since I was born, I have changed lives (good or bad.) My sister went from an only child to an older sibling. My parents went from proud cheerful parents to sleep deprived maniacs (love you mom and dad.) Growing up I always played devil’s advocate to all issues and fought fiercely for things I believed in with the hope that I could change someone’s perspective. I became a Social Worker then Teacher to change the lives of the people I come in contact with. During my growth I have learned a lot about change. It is scary, uncomfortable and difficult to understand.

My newest project (MSB) has made me most proud of the changes I have invoked in many people’s lives. This post has to do with the changes I have made in the hearts of the more fortunate. Of course I am proud of all the work we have done for our families, but to me that is easier than reaching the people who don’t believe in what we are doing.
Working for RCSD has shown me many sides of poverty and disparity. I have heard all of the stereo types and see some of them day to day. I am not denying they exist, I am suggesting they are not the majority. In our process of asking for help from our community I have encountered so many generous people who are willing to give, because they have the means to do so. I have also experienced reactions of dislike for our organization with the complaint that we are enabling our families to continue to take handouts and excuse them from working to meet their needs. I can understand why some may feel this way, but I also know it comes from many who have never actually met the types of families who are in need of help. They are reacting from stereo types and media reports only.

This morning I read a blog post from my sister Erica Berrios. This post made me more proud of myself than almost anything else. Her kind words and acknowledgment made me realize I have the capability to change the mindset of people. She made a comment that helped me see that and I quote “ When my sister first told me what she was doing with this organization my first thought was, is she out of her freaking mind?” I love this because it shows how different we are and that we don’t always see eye to eye. This quote was followed by “well if anyone can do it, she can.” This one made me cry. Her pride in me is something I have needed to hear my entire life. A third quote is what I have been trying to do my entire existence. “I honestly think this one (MSB) really made a large mark on my heart.” To me this is something I will take the grave, knowing I have shown someone how I look at the world, and the capability we have to make it a better place.

Erica has taken it upon herself to begin an effort in Virginia Beach to help those less fortunate. By seeing the wish lists and the basic necessities listed, the stereo types are set aside and the hearts are opened. She has adopted an entire family in Rochester, and continues our work from states away. I cannot express how proud I am of her. This is a change in her that makes me see her differently than what I have always known. Thank you Erica Berrios for your kindness and support, it means the world to me. I hope you don’t feel I have casted you in a negative light. I know you have always had a kind heart, but to use your own words “sometimes I need reminding.” It takes a strong person to step out of their life and look for a way to help others. Your work in VA will not stop with the help you give our families. Your children will take away a valuable trait much needed in our world. For that, I am ever grateful.

Like I said, this one was lengthy but I need to share my pride and successes in hopes it motivates one more person to look at people differently. I ask you to put aside the negative, and see people as they are. Open your eyes to reality. People need help; children need help and by helping you are teaching others to return the favor. This is your chance to make a difference and give one person hope that life can be different from what they have always known.


Lists and parties and progress… oh my!

Hi, everyone!  Jamie here.

I feel like referring to you as the all-encompassing ‘everyone’ seems so impersonal. We should really have a name for all of you following us on our journey.  Like Spiriteers or something that identifies the group, as a whole. Anyone have any suggestions? We’re all about leaving some of our decision-making up to the masses (and social media). After all, that’s how our name came to be… isn’t that right, Valerie?

By now you’ve likely heard that our shopping lists are out! Well, half of them, anyway. If you haven’t yet taken a look via Facebook, you can peruse the master donation list on our website HERE. The lists are fairly extensive and may seem pretty lengthy, but many of our families need a great deal. And we’re hoping to make this a holiday season to remember, in every way. We want to make their lives easier and we want to fill them with joy. That’s what the holidays are about and that’s certainly what our organization is about, too.

We just heard back from School #33 regarding the rest of our families’ lists. We hope to have another four families to share with you this evening. So, please keep checking back for updates.

changeFor those wishing to donate items, the spreadsheet is pretty intuitive. All you need to do is open the link on your computer, then add your name and email next to the items you wish to purchase. Simply close the document when you’re done and it will automatically save for you. Editing the list from a mobile device has proved tricky for some. We’ve found that downloading the Google Sheets app has allowed us to update things on the go. That said, if you’re having issues, please let us know and we’ll gladly help you!

Next up we’d like to thank two businesses for really coming through for us in a big way. You may remember our friend, Jon Nappa, the man behind the Syracuse event we’ve mimicked here in Rochester. Well, thanks to the generosity of his company, Bruin Computer Trading & Recycling, we have secured laptop computers for every family we’re working with this year. Jon has been gracious enough to offer these laptops at an incredibly reduced rate. And that’s where PacTech Packaging comes in to play and where we owe a great deal of thanks, as well. PacTech has offered to purchase every one of those computers, on our behalf, allowing us to redirect our monies toward clothing for these families and other necessities along the way. Without the generous contributions from both businesses, we wouldn’t be able to offer these gifts, so we thank you both.

We’ve also heard from the pulmonary until at Strong Memorial Hospital and it seems they want to designate Making Spirits Bright as their charity of choice this holiday season. They will be adopting an entire family’s list for us! We still can’t believe our good fortune, as this was an idea we had thought about, but we had tabled until next year in an effort to really focus on what we’ve created, so far. To have them reach out to us and offer to do so much is, well… stupendous.

In continuing with that thought, we have had a great deal of families and area businesses reach out to us, wondering how they can help. Parents are hoping to involve their children on a larger scale. Businesses are looking to get their employees into the spirit of giving. As you know by now, we’re operating from a zero-based budget. We started with $0 and we’ll be ending that way, as well. Any donations collected along the way, whether they’re tangible items or monetary contributions, will be utilized to the best of our ability and all will be donated to our families.

As a group, we have come up with a few ways in which different groups can get involved. The first is our Wrapping Party, which we have scheduled for Wednesday, December 3 at 6 pm. The fabulous folks over at the DoubleTree Hilton in Henrietta have graciously donated a meeting space for us to use. We’ll be gathering there that evening to wrap all the items for each family. It will also serve as an opportunity to thank all of you who are assisting us in so many ways, because without you… our grand ideas would never have been made possible. So, if you want to save the date, please do so. We’d love to share in this excitement with you in person!

Other ways of helping us out…

  • Organize a bottle & can drive where folks bring their returns to your office/school/home. Returns can now be made in FOUR locations. The addresses can be found on our Donations page.
  • Host a dress-down day at the office where co-workers donate $5 to wear jeans and collect on behalf of MSB.
  • Adopt-a-family’s list, like the hospital’s pulmonary until is doing.
  • Collect food items that will be sent home with each family at our event. Canned food is good, but if you wait until closer to the event, perishable items could work, as well.
  • Collect gift cards. The Wonder Tree pre-k school in Webster is collecting Wegmans gift cards, so we can purchase food items. We’re also looking for gift cards to area retailers, such as Target, Game Stop, Ulta, Kmart, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, etc. They’ll either be used by us to even out wish lists, or they’ll be given to families to use at their own discretion.
  • Create a fundraising page through our CrowdRise account and collect tax-deductible monetary donations on our behalf.
  • Do you know of any area food establishments that might be willing to donate food for the event? We’re also looking for a limo bus service to transport our families to and from the event on December 11. Connections are appreciated, too.
  • If you have other ideas to help MSB, we certainly welcome any suggestions.

I’m sure there’s more to share with you, but this is pretty lengthy already. We thank you for staying with us for the entire post. Until next time… cheers!


The good news keeps on coming.

Hello, all!

It’s been a while since we’ve talked. It’s been a whirlwind month for us and we’ve got so much to share with you. Things are moving at a pretty quick clip these days, but I’m happy to say – everything that’s come our way has been good great things!

For those that aren’t following our updates on Facebook… we’ve identified the school that we’re partnering with this year! We’re thrilled to be working with School #33 and are pretty anxious now to make spirits bright for some of their families.  Jess and I (this is Jamie, again) met with their social worker and parent liaison a few weeks ago and couldn’t be happier with the way things went. Since our meeting with them they have identified all the families we’ll be working with, so that’s fantastic! We’ve since sent out information requests to each family and we’re eagerly awaiting their responses. The feedback we receive will give us our all-important shopping list, which we will then pass on to all of you. This will include both things the families need, as well as things they want. And that’s when the fun really begins, because once that list is established… it’s time to include the rest of you in on the fun, the shopping!

Here’s how that will work… we will compile a master list of everything these families are looking for. We’ll be adding that to a document that we’ll put online for you all to see. Any of you wishing to purchase items will then have the opportunity to claim as many as you’d like. You’ll simply add your name next to those items, buy them, and drop them off to us (unwrapped). We’ll then take inventory of everything we’ve been given and schedule a Wrapping Party where you’re all welcome to help us wrap all the items we’re donating. Date and time for this will be announced at a later date. We’ve been overwhelmed with all the requests to help already, so it will undoubtedly be a wonderful time for us all to get together.

In other news… we were contacted last week by Rochester Woman Magazine. They heard about us through the power of social media (thank you, Mark Zuckerberg) and want to feature our efforts in the upcoming November issue. We’re happy to say we have since met with the folks making it happen: the absolutely lovely Rebecca Ferguson, who is writing the article, and the ever-talented VeJay Broyld, the photographer. We had a ridiculous amount of fun with both of them and cannot wait to see what they’ve come up with to showcase our work. So, please keep an eye on newsstands in early November for that! We’d like to give some thanks to the fabulous staff at Waterlily Spa &  Cosmetics Boutique, as well, for doing our makeup, free of charge, the day of our photo shoot. We looked, and felt, like a million bucks!

This week we received another call, this time from Erica Denman, the owner of Balance Fitness & Yoga in Webster. Again, we owe thanks to Facebook for Erica’s finding us. She and her amazing team of instructors are offering numerous community classes in the coming months and have generously adopted Making Spirits Bright as their charity of choice. Proceeds from all of these classes will go directly to our cause, supporting our School #33 families. We encourage you to follow them on Facebook where you can find the dates of the community classes, in addition to their regularly scheduled ones, as well.

We’re absolutely humbled by the support we’ve received thus far, from businesses and individuals. We’ve yet to prove ourselves to anyone, but you have all put your faith in us, and in our mission, and we couldn’t be more grateful. Your confidence is pushing us to new levels and giving us the opportunity to do so much good. Thank you for joining us on this journey. We will not disappoint!

Road trip!

Jess and I (Jamie) went on a road trip today. To the Syracuse area where we’re from. Whoo! We really know how to live it up, don’t we?

Yes, we grew up there. But today we weren’t headed back to play. Or reminisce about the good ol’ days. (We used the car ride down for that.) Today, we went back home, to work. We met with a new friend, Jon Nappa, owner of Bruin Computer Recyclers. It just so happens we all graduated from the same high school (Let’s go, Bees!), but we met Jon for the very first time today.

For the last four or five years Jon has run a similar operation to Making Spirits Bright. We learned about his event thanks to an article written in the Syracuse Post Standard, touting the efforts he and his team made last winter. And we figured rather than reinventing the wheel, it was best to talk with the guy who inspired us to create our own Pay It Forward event.

So, we traveled down the Thruway, with notebooks full of questions and we left with all the answers and a lot more inspiration. We’re feeling ridiculously excited. And we know, for certain now, that we’re doing everything exactly as we should be. We’re prepared. And we’re ready.

Jamie and Jess paying a visit to the B'ville DinerAs we got back in the car to head back home, we also realized… we were hungry. A quick call to my parents prompted a very impromptu lunch date at the B’ville Diner where we feasted on French fries and gravy, their specialty. The lunch allowed Jess and I to share our most recent round of ideas, and excitement, with my folks. And then my parents, fabulous as they are, paid for our lunch and we were on our way.  Thanks, Mom and Dad! That leaves us with a few extra dollars in our pocket to invest in Making Spirits Bright. Most excellent.