Led by Lillian Paniccia, Ricci students boost jeans for teens cause

Led by Lillian Paniccia, Ricci students boost jeans for teens cause

Cumberland High School sophomore Kayleigh LaPre, left, and Ricci Middle School 8th-grader Lillian Paniccia show off the 64 pairs of jeans collected from Ricci students and faculty. Lillian, 13, organized the school drive to contribute jeans to Kayleigh, who has collected more than 1,700 pairs of jeans for homeless teens since January. (Breeze photo by Meghan Kavanaugh)

NORTH PROVIDENCE - The Dr. E. A. Ricci Middle School community made denim donations a priority over the past few weeks, digging out old pairs from closets and drawers to donate to the homeless.

The North Providence effort was led by Ricci 8th-grader Lillian Paniccia, who heard about Cumberland High School sophomore Kayleigh LaPre's efforts on Facebook.

Kayleigh started her jean donation campaign through DoSomething.org and Aeropostale as a way to provide a sense of normalcy to homeless children and teens. When the Cumberland-Lincoln edition of The Breeze wrote about her efforts in early January, the goal was to collect 1,000 pairs.

As of Monday, the total had reached 1,756 pairs. The carloads full of jeans were to be dropped off this past weekend at the Aeropostale store at the Providence Place Mall.

Lillian and Ricci students and faculty contributed 64 pairs since the drive started at the end of January.

While this is the first such fundraiser for 13-year-old Lillian, the daughter of Christopher and April Paniccia, she was the winner of a contest for anaphylaxis education last March, when she won a scholarship for creating a bookmark of how to handle someone in shock.

She said she wanted to be able to help others, especially homeless teens.

"I've always been fortunate to have everything that I needed," Lillian said, adding that since the jeans are going to homeless shelters, "It's better than having them sit in the basement."

Asst. Principal Lori Facha said that is how the rest of the school felt, as well, as they made their donations.

Kayleigh said she is grateful the drive was able to expand beyond Cumberland to North Providence and other communities around the state. "I'm so thankful for all of them," she said.

And while the drive is complete for this year, Kayleigh said anyone interested in participating next year should put their jeans aside.

"Keep them for Kayleigh," she said with a smile.