Each holiday season, Anthony “AJ” Silvestri and Jillian Bresonick rally their community in Old Bridge and beyond to write letters to Santa for the annual Make-A-Wish New Jersey letter campaign through the Macy’s Believe campaign.
This is a letter writing company that is near and dear to AJ’s heart as a Make-a-Wish recipient and Jillian as a Make-a-Wish sibling. This year they surpassed the previous two years as they joined forces.
The duo delivered 311,000 letters to Macy’s at Brunswick Square Mall in East Brunswick on Dec. 16.
In 2021, the duo collected 136,512 letters. In 2020 – the first year they teamed up and named the holiday writing holiday ‘Believe in Unicorns’ in memory of Sister Jillian – thousands of letters were written, collected and delivered.
In 2020, Jillian, now a sixth-grader at Jonas Salk Middle School, teamed up with AJ, a student at Old Bridge Middle School, in memory of her 7-year-old sister, Kendall, who was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer earlier in 2020. She studied at Southwood Elementary School.
During Kendall’s short but brutal battle with the disease, she was granted a wish by Make-A-Wish New Jersey to build a pool in her parents’ backyard. Kendall died in May 2020.
When Kendall got her wish, she asked her mother if she could ride the sleigh with AJ during the annual holiday letter delivery.
Kendall, symbolically, rides the sleigh in spirit. Her photo was posted on a sled for a trip to Macy’s.
Over the years and before Kendall’s diagnosis, Jillian and Kendall have been some of AJ’s biggest fans. The Bresochnik family, which also includes parents Eric and Carrie-Anne, have written and collected more than 15,000 letters over the past few years.
Since 2014, AJ has collected more than 500,000 letters with the help of supporters from Old Bridge schools, other communities across the state and abroad. AJ collected letters from as far away as Alaska, Hawaii and New Zealand.
Each year, he and family and friends drop off boxes of letters during National Faith Week at Macy’s in Brunswick Square.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the partnership, when Macy’s began donating to Make-A-Wish. When Macy’s Believe was born in 2007, that effort grew. From early November until Christmas Eve, “believers” of all ages can send letters to Santa in the big red mailbox at any Macy’s store or online at macys.com/believe
Macy’s stores and Make-A-Wish departments, as well as community partners nationwide, arrange letter delivery at select Macy’s locations.
In conjunction with this milestone, for every letter received, Macy’s will donate $2 to Make-A-Wish, bringing it up to $2 million to help make life-changing wishes for children with serious illnesses.
“We are grateful to AJ and Jillian, and of course our dear friends at Macy’s, for their partnership over the years,” said Michael Dominick, Assistant Vice President
marketing and communications for Make-A-Wish New Jersey. “We simply cannot achieve our mission without the support and kindness of the community. AJ and Jillian inspired their community again this year, and thanks to their efforts and the financial support of our partners at Macy’s this holiday season, we will continue to bring hope back into the lives of children with serious illnesses when hope is needed most. »
Sam DiSipio, Macy’s senior director of corporate communications and social impact, said, “The long-standing partnership between Macy’s and Make-A-Wish goes back 20 years,
has raised more than $142 million and helped grant more than 16,200 wishes.”
“We are very proud of the great work that Macy’s and Make-A-Wish have done together,” he said.
Make a wish New Jersey granted AJ a wish when he was 8 years old. He has cystic fibrosis, a chronic, progressive and life-limiting genetic disease that affects AJ’s lungs and gastrointestinal system, said AJ’s mother Keriann S. Silvestri.
AJ wanted to go to Las Vegas to meet the cast of Pawn Stars. AJ also met the cast of American Restoration, which was also on the History Channel. The trip came a week after Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Supported by Macy’s Believe, the Make a Wish campaign gives children with serious illnesses the opportunity to experience life beyond their illness and see their deepest wishes come true, empowering them to replace fear with confidence, anxiety with hope, and sadness with joy.
Santa cards that can be printed at home and delivered to Macy’s stores are available at macys.com/makeawish.