By Amy Nicole
In 2020, Adriana Ancilleri said she had “just an idea” to build a fitness circuit for kids to encourage them to be heart healthy and have fun for her Girl Scouts Gold Award project.
That was just the beginning of an unstoppable girl’s mission to help others.
3 years later, with belief, support of the community, family, and fellow volunteers Adriana finally brought her vision full circle as she painted the last pieces to the “Healthy Hearts For Happy Kids Trail” at the Holtsville Wildlife & Ecology Center Fitness Track located in Holtsville, NY.
With the fall weather still beaming warm summer-like afternoons, children and their families can still be seen making their way going from station to station running, jumping, and hopping through the trail.
“When I first came up with the idea it was very small. I didn’t expect the town (Town of Brookhaven) to create blacktop heads for us. The whole community came together donating supplies,” said Adriana.
Still feeling a little shocked by the overwhelming response, Adriana who graduated from Sachem East High School in February 2023 completed the fitness track project in early June 2023 before she headed off to her freshman year of college at NYIT this fall.
The track consists of eight stations with two signs at each stop incorporating 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.”
As a result of Adriana’s contribution to her community, she has received multiple scholarships for college including the Girl Scouts Presidential Service Award and recognition from her school district. The greatest reward though for Adriana, she said, has come from the people who have shared with her everything they love about the trail.
“People would come up while I was painting and share how they love taking their children to the trail, the artwork-how fun it is for kids,” she said.
With the completion of the trail, Adriana and her mom Sharon Ancilleri shifted gears and began a search to find a local program in need to donate the leftover painting supplies. Sharon, who worked right by Adriana’s side from start to finish to bring this project to life said it was important to them to pay forward in their community with the generosity that was shown to them.
“It would be nice to bring a colorful moment to another child’s area,” said Sharon.
Within days of Adriana making the final touches, their hopes came to fruition and the painting stencils and supplies were donated to a middle school art department within Sachem Central School District and a batch of “Healthy Hearts For Happy Kids” t-shirts were likewise gifted to the Lighthouse Mission.
After years of hard work and determination to see the project through, Adriana sat on a bench and looked at the completed trail. Reflecting on it all she said she hopes the creation of her “Healthy Hearts For Happy Kids” trail provides a place for families and their children to come play and stay fit for years to come.
“It was definitely a feel-good moment to say it was complete,” she said.
The Holtsville Wildlife & Ecology Center Fitness Track is located at 249 Buckley Rd Holtsville, NY 11742.
Read how it all started for Adriana here: