Holtsville Girl Scout Creates Innovative “Healthy Hearts For Happy Kids” Trail

By Amy Nicole Tangel

Looking for new ways to spend time outside and stay active is at the forefront for many parents with growing kids, and a Girl Scout in Suffolk County has recently answered the call bringing her passion for fitness and helping others together by creating a new trail for kids to have fun and stay fit.

Holtsville resident and 16-year-old junior at Sachem East High School, Adriana Ancilleri is finally seeing the vision for her Girl Scout Gold Award come to life with the “Healthy Hearts For Happy Kids” Trail at the Town of Brookhaven’s Holtsville Wildlife & Ecology Center Fitness Track after almost a year and a half of planning, countless hours of work and enormous support from the local community.

“Adriana’s Gold Award project, ‘Healthy Hearts For Happy Kids,’ is a wonderful addition to the walking track at the Holtsville Ecology Site & Animal Preserve.  From the activities she created for children to stop and do while walking, to the signage, benches and stencils along the track, I am confident visitors to the Ecology Site will be enjoying these stations for years to come,” said Town of Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro.

Adriana is no stranger to service and has been actively volunteering from the time she was in early elementary school not only with Girl Scouts, but with organizations such as Island Harvest and the Lighthouse Mission.  In spite of all her experience, including Bronze and Silver award projects, Adriana said when it came to undertaking such a task this big she was worried about being able to make it happen at first, but took a chance and reached out to Losquardo to introduce herself and share her project proposal.

To her delight, Adriana said she was thrilled to hear the Town of Brookhaven loved her idea and offered to donate her signs and help build the stations.  Adriana and her mom Sharon, who has guided her daughter every step of the way and is Sachem East High School PTA President, both said they could not be more grateful for Brookhaven Town Highway Department Public Relations Assistant Kristen D’Andrea for her constant communication throughout the project and for all of the Highway Department employees who worked to help build the track.

“They took the idea and ran further than I ever thought,” said Adriana.

Great support for Adriana and her project have also come from generous contributions in the local community with grants given from Walmart of Commack and Farmingdale in the amounts of $2500 and from Sam’s Club of Medford in the amount of $2000.  She said Home Depot of Centereach donated items such as paint kits, brushes and roller pans, and Sherwin Williams of Patchogue donated 15 gallons of asphalt paint to complete the project.

The track consists of eight  stations with two signs at each stop to create different activities like stretching, hopscotch and running in place combined with positive and inspirational themes such as, “Be Kind,” “Let Your Imagination Fly,” and “Superheroes.”  Every sign includes a “fun fact” to bring the lesson together in a memorable statement with the final sign at the end of the trail closing out the activity course with a quote from Rocky Balboa reading, “Every champion was once a contender that refused to give up.”

“My favorite sign to create was the Superhero sign because the idea was inspired by my cousin Sean’s love for superheroes,” she said.

For Adriana, aspiring to build a kids’ trail came from wanting to make a track to meet various physical abilities and something for all levels of physical fitness.  This vision she said was inspired not only by her passion for fitness, but by her 11-year-old cousin Sean Montera, who is living with one of the rarest diseases in the world. 

According to Sean’s mom Rita Montera, Sean who has UBTF disorder, is faced with an extremely rare progressive neurological disorder which affects his cognition, speech and physical functioning causing the affected children like her son to slowly lose all of these abilities by their early 20’s.  Through Adriana’s trail for kids and her mission to help her cousin, Rita said she hopes to bring awareness to this disorder to work towards finding a cure.

“When Sean was diagnosed there were 11 other children with this disorder in the world.  Currently, there is no treatment to slow it down or cure it, but we will always have hope that a cure will be found,” said Rita.

The saying, “It takes a Village” seems to be the case for Adriana as her list of inspirations and special people who have helped her become the dedicated person she is a long one, but at the top of her mentor list is Sachem East High School 9th grade history teacher, Ryan Fatscher.  Adriana said she has known Ryan for 3 years and she is ultimately the person who introduced her to working out, guides her through her fitness journey, and is her advisor for her Gold Award.

“We became really good friends and she has played a large role in becoming the person I am today,” said Adriana.

While Adriana is completely humble in her sentiment, her mother Sharon is her biggest fan adding that not only does her daughter dedicate her all to her community and the people she loves,  but to her school work as well, carrying an approximate 102.5 average taking all honors and AP courses. 

On top of Adriana’s academics and community service, she is also junior varsity captain of her basketball team and is a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol; all made possible with mom getting her where she needs to be every day.

“My mom’s amazing support means the world to me. Growing up I have always admired her and valued her opinion on everything I do. We have a relationship like no other and having her support gives me the drive to conquer the world,” said Adriana.

The physical work to build the trail began this past June and although the asphalt is poured, the signs she designed on word with QR codes are up, and the benches Adriana built engraved with her inspirational quotes such as, “Believe in Yourself” are in place, there is still work she said she has to do.  In the coming weeks, Adriana will be taking giant stencils such as a hot air balloon, a shuttle and the sun to personally paint each of the eight stations with asphalt to complete the project.

One stencil alone was at the cost of $300, so in true Adriana fashion she said she has already been brainstorming how she can continue to use the stencils to put them towards good use in the community.  An idea she said she is currently exploring is the possibility of asking local pre-schools if she can paint little activities for the kids.

“Adriana is an extremely driven, ambitious and hard-working Girl Scout. She knew exactly what she wanted to do with her Gold Award project and didn’t stop until she saw her ideas come to fruition,” said Losquardo.

An unveiling is in the works and Adriana said she is hoping in about six weeks to coordinate an event one day after school.  Once the project wraps, Adriana has no intentions of slowing down and said she is ready to start pursuing her ultimate life’s mission and dream to one day becoming an Aerospace Engineer when she begins taking flying lessons. 

In the meantime, Adriana is focused on the trail’s completion and is excited to see the final outcome.

“I hope the kids will love my project’s creativity and I hope they have fun learning about the benefits of exercise with their friends and family,” she said.

Photos courtesy of Adriana and Sharon Ancilleri

Feature and Sign Photos by Amy Nicole Tangel