Bishop Foley, Guardian Angels students fan out to serve during 'Be the Difference Day'

Students from Bishop Foley High School sort vinyl records at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store as part of the school's 10th annual “Be the Difference Day.” More than 350 students from Bishop Foley and Guardian Angels Catholic School visited 20 sites around Metro Detroit on April 26 in service to their neighbors. (Photos courtesy of Michele Colosi)

Annual day of service sends students out into the community to teach students value of helping others

MADISON HEIGHTS — Whether feeding puppies, playing piano for seniors or sorting record albums, students at Bishop Foley High School and Guardian Angels Catholic School learned to “be the difference” in their community April 26. 

On the Friday after Easter, high school and eighth-grade students from the two Catholic schools fanned out to visit and serve at 20 sites around Detroit's suburbs and some in the city as part of the schools' 10th annual “Be the Difference Day.”

Locations and tasks varied, from helping people in the memory care unit at Brookdale Assisted Living to assemble puzzles, to cleaning and yard work for Gianna House, a pregnancy and parenting residence for teen mothers in Eastpointe. 

Bishop Foley students help seniors with puzzles at Brookdale Assisted Living in Troy during “Be the Difference Day.”

Other sites included Gilda’s Club Metro Detroit, a center for cancer patients; I Heart Dogs Rescue and Animal Haven; the O’Hair Project in Detroit; the Madison Heights Library; Royal Oak Fire Department and St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store.

“People fill out sheets where they want to work, and we do our best to place them. Service is food for the soul,” said Bella Scaccia, 17, the student leader of a squadron of 350 students, plus another 100 parents, alumni and friends.

Other students were stationed in Bishop Foley's cafeteria making fleece blankets for Project Linus, packaging toys for the Bottomless Toy Chest, decorating breast cancer awareness ribbons and painting a mural at the school.

Fr. Tony Richter, pastor of Guardian Angels Parish in Clawson, blesses students at Bishop Foley High School in Madison Heights before they embark on their service opportunities.

“Bishop Foley students started doing this in memory of Marisa LaRocca, a much-loved campus minister” who died in 2009, said Ashley Hursin, current campus minister and director of the one-day program. 

Hursin finds sponsors to buy lunches, snacks and breakfasts, and shuttle drivers. She noted the program has been going strong for 10 years under various leaders. Scaccia led this year with a a core group of 25 people to send emails and make follow-up calls to Catholic and nonprofit sites all over town who would welcome students and help guide them with tasks.

At St. Vincent de Paul, a high-spirited group sorted vinyl records, putting them in the proper jackets and asking one another, “Who is Andy Williams?” as they find four records by one of the leading television hosts of the 1960s. Others put sizes on clothes, happy to find great discounts among the racks.

Nicholas Fooy plays the piano for residents at Brookdale Assisted Living in Troy. 

At Brookdale Senior Living in Troy, Nicolas Fooy, a self-taught pianist, drew a crowd with a stirring rendition of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” following up with the theme from “Star Wars.” Gentle notes serenaded other students helping seniors create a drawing out of strips of sticky plastic or enjoy a round of chess. Plans to go outdoors and create gardens were dampened by nonstop rain.

Another group was shuttled to I Heart Dogs Rescue in Eastpointe, where students helped feed and pet puppies, walk dogs and clean up the facility. 

Students help care for puppies at I Heart Dogs Rescue in Eastpointe during “Be the Difference Day.”
Bella Scaccia, 17, student leader for the “Be the Difference Day” project, helps organize the 350 students who participated in the service projects.

“We can’t wait to hear all about the wonderful memories and moments that came from this year’s event,” said Michele Colosi, a graduate of Bishop Foley and the school's advancement services coordinator.