'Happy Boxes': How a South Jersey grandmother's gift turned into a nonprofit

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Sunday, March 26, 2023
How a South Jersey grandmother's gift turned into a nonprofit
Retired police officer Tara Scioli repurposes cigar boxes into colorful care packages for children who could use a smile.

SOMERS POINT, New Jersey (WPVI) -- She was once a crossing guard-turned-police officer in Ocean City, New Jersey. And now, Tara Scioli's retirement mission is to show grandmotherly love to children facing challenges across the region.

"During the pandemic, we went from seeing our grandchildren every day, like so many people," she said, "And we couldn't see them."

Scioli wanted to find a way to show her love from a distance. So, she had to get creative.

"I found a couple of cigar boxes down in the basement," she said. "So, I made all three grandchildren a 'Happy Box,' I called it, just to bring them some cheer. And we just dropped them off on the doorstep."

Seeing the joy it brought her grandchildren, Scioli thought she could make more for other children Her grandson, Cayden, helped to spark the idea of helping children who are battling illnesses or facing other challenges.

Scioli and her husband got to work, making about 80 boxes in the first big weekend batch. Since then, they have made considerable donations to organizations like the Kisses for Kyle Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cumberland and Salem Counties, and the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City to name a few.

"We were able to impact close to 75 kids through this donation," said Sydney Perkins, Director of Resource Development at the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City. "One of our entire buildings was able to receive these, which is fantastic."

Each box comes fit with fun items like Beanie Babies and coloring books. The family even adds special touches like seashells and a warrior poem pasted inside.

Soon after the word got out, donations came pouring in from friends, family, police, and local cigar shops. Now an official nonprofit, Tara's Happy Boxes is even garnering support from corporate sponsors.

"Almost everything now that we get is through donations," said Scioli. "So, I can now see that I can make this continue to grow and help as many children as possible."

Scioli also imparts important lessons while crafting boxes with her three grandchildren. Once they are old enough to fully realize the impact, she hopes they will cement Tara's Happy Boxes as a family tradition.

To learn more about Tara's Happy Boxes, visit her Instagram page.

RELATED: South Jersey students chop hair to support kids battling cancer

Students at Folsom school cut or shaved their hair to raise more than $31,000 for pediatric cancer research!