"People with spunk live longer"

Posted by Kristen Suraci on

When I moved home to Albany from South Carolina the biggest reason behind it was family. I was sick of missing the little things. Family dinners, holiday cook outs, cousins birthday parties, and much more. Of course, along with that, I wanted to be here for the big things. Being home allowed me to be a part of the planning process for my brother’s wedding on New Years Eve. That’s an experience I will always appreciate. People always say, take the good with the bad. With so much good, I wasn’t necessarily prepared for the “bad”, but it’s all in God’s hands right? On Thursday night, God decided it was my great aunt’s time to leave us. 

I saw my Aunt Connie a lot growing up. Her husband was my grandmother’s brother and they spent a lot of time at her house. I think something my entire family will remember about my aunt and uncle is their generosity. I saw them almost every Sunday, and on almost every Sunday each of them would find a way to slip me five or 10 bucks before I left my grandma’s house. It was then usually followed up by “grab yourself an ice cream” or “buy yourself a slice of pizza”...typical Italian family always having food on the brain. As a kid at 10 or 11 years old, getting 10 dollars to spend on whatever you wanted was like hitting the lottery. I can’t tell you what I ever ended up buying with the money, but I can tell you that looking back now that money meant a lot more than some ice cream or pizza. 

Aunt Connie was a woman of many traits and talents. Today I learned that she loved to draw and write. It really got me thinking how I spent so much time with her over the past 24 years of my life, and I even went to college for writing and communications, and I never once talked to her about that particular passion of mine. To hear that she wrote memoirs and short stories really got me to thinking where I want to take my writing. My cousin Randy even shared a very special memory that I thought those of you who have attended college and had to write a lengthy term paper would appreciate. During his freshman or sophomore year at Siena, Randy was taking one of two mandatory religion classes. He went to have dinner with my Aunt Connie and when she asked him how college was going, he told her how he had to write a term paper on baptism and went into a little bit more detail on what exactly he had to write about. That Friday, Aunt Connie called Randy and simply said “your term paper is done.” When Randy went over the next day to figure out what she was talking about, she had written an eight page, single-spaced, handwritten term paper on baptism for him. That’s a college kids dream!The point is, I think sometimes we underestimate what people in our world are capable of. I’m not saying Aunt Connie wasn’t talented, but did I think at around the age of 70 she’d be writing an eight page college paper? Definitely never crossed my mind.

I’m writing this blog just hours after we buried her and heard the stories of her life. As my brother and I drove to the grave site, it had us talking about what a legacy she left behind. My brother said something that stuck with me.  He said, “Aunt Connie left us knowing she created a beautiful and successful family. It makes me wonder what I’ll leave behind one day.” Aunt Connie left behind so much good. I know when I joined the Twill team I wanted to create more of that “good” in our community. Sometimes we get so caught up in our day-to-day lives that we forget to take a step back from it all and really appreciate the little things. For us as a Twill team, I don’t think we give our partners enough credit. All their special traits and talents help us grow, and with that growth comes more giving to the people that need it most.


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Who’s got school spirit?

Posted by Kristen Suraci on

Hello again to my blog friends! This month is super exciting for Twill as we’ve been putting the final touches on a very special project!

To our purple family reading, this is extra special for you! We have teamed up with the University at Albany to design a fully licensed, official UAlbany + Twill beanie. For every beanie purchased, a portion of the proceeds will go directly to local organizations, Jammin for JP and Friends of Jaclyn.

Jammin for JP and Friends of Jaclyn were both started because of two amazing young people worth learning a little more about.

At the age of three, JP’s parents noticed although he loved sports, he was very clumsy and was struggling in school.  Despite battling continuous roadblocks it is clear to see that JP's parents are true rockstars. They sent him to a vision therapist weekly after noticing his eyes didn’t move up and down and spent hours researching his symptoms all while trying to change his diet and get him started on different vitamins and foods. In 2013, they met with his neurologist and from there the family was sent to Boston Children’s Hospital. Ultimately it was Mollie, JP's sister, who chimed in to save the day. She told the doctor at the hospital that when JP laughed he tended to lose control of his head and shoulders. JP went through more testing and he continued experiencing similar symptoms and eventually was put on seizure medication. Ultimately his family was sent back to Boston where JP was finally diagnosed with the very rare Niemann Pick Type C disease. Jammin for JP helps raise awareness, support others that are fighting similar battles as JP and helps ensure he can live life to the fullest extent despite the obstacles and difficulties he faces each day. To read all the details of this disease, you can go directly to JP’s website by clicking here.

In 2004, nine year old Jaclyn Murphy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Though she was young, she stayed fierce and brave. Through chance events, Jaclyn became connected to a collegiate lacrosse team and was soon after adopted as an honorary team member. Her joy for life inspired the players she grew close to with the team going on to a perfect season, winning their first NCAA national championship in 64 years! Talk about a miracle! Jaclyn’s work wasn’t done there! She later shared her dream of helping all of the sick children in the hospital. In 2005, Jaclyn and her family created the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation to improve the quality of life for children battling pediatric brain tumors, allowing them to live in the moment.

We are unbelievably inspired by each of these organizations, JP and Jaclyn and the countless lives they've touched. Through all his struggles, JP still gets up and goes to school and is willing to try his best. His family hopes to continue helping other families trying to battle the disease by hosting events and raising money.

Today, Friends of Jaclyn has helped nearly 700 families with brain tumors and other childhood cancers. The foundations mission is to improve the quality of life for children battling pediatric brain tumors. Through their three programs, Adopt-A-Child, Safe on the Sidelines and Guardian Angel Programs, they pair an afflicted child and their siblings with local sports teams, campus clubs, and arts programs in their community. To learn more about how you can be a part of this foundation, click here.

I don’t know about all of you reading this, but just hearing their story has inspired me to get out and help the community any way I can. What’s even cooler about all this is the fact that you can help these foundations AND get a gift in return by purchasing one of our beanies. If that’s not a win-win situation, I’m not sure what is! For those of you reading this that aren’t UAlbany fans (I’m a Siena Saint myself)...swallow your pride and do the right thing!

Pre-sale has officially started, so head on over to www.mytwill.com to grab your limited-edition beanie before they sell out!

Till next time, thanks for reading!

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The Growing Lego Tower by Kristen Suraci

Posted by Shaina Kaye on

I’m back! As the holiday season comes to a close, I can’t help but think about all the good that is happening around the Capital Region. People donating food, gifts, and we can’t forget, blankets! I got to wondering how that all started. When did we learn to come together for a greater good?

Let me take you down memory lane.

I’m thinking about pre-school and kindergarten. You run into a classroom full of dolls, blocks, and toy cars to dive into. Most of us were probably overwhelmed with the mass amount of toys we were able to get our hands on. What we didn’t realize at that age, was we were learning how to talk, play, and the hardest of all, share with others. We were quickly learning how just one toy can be even more fun if you have someone to play alongside you.

Imagine a small building of 10 legos turning into a four foot tower with the help of two or three other tiny humans working alongside their friend. Fast forward to college 18 years later, where we find ourselves witnessing incredible partnerships of a different kind, such as two local Siena College students partnering up and creating a prosthetic arm in order to help people in need.

Where am I going with this?

Something small can turn into something much bigger with the willingness of a helping hand. Twill started in the basement of a dusty apartment by two brothers. Within a few short years, we’ve partnered with companies all over the Capital Region to help thousands of community members in need (including 3,000+ JUST in 2016)! This holiday season, I think I speak for everyone at Twill when I say we are so thankful for all the companies that decided to be our partner in building our own unique kind of lego tower. I can’t wait to see the new partners we make in 2017 and how many more people in need will be helped! Until then, Happy New Year!

- Kristen

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Storms don’t last forever by Kristen Suraci

Posted by Zachary Halloran on

By: Kristen Suraci

This is my first stab at writing a piece that doesn’t have to do with what’s going on around the world, but instead what’s going on in my own life. With that being said, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Kristen, and for as long as the Twill team will have me, I’ll be contributing a monthly blog to keep everyone up to date on the greatness Twill is accomplishing! To say I’m excited is an understatement.

Let me tell you a little bit about me. I grew up in Guilderland and for the most part, have little to complain about that. I’ve always enjoyed all the great things and people the Capital Region has to offer. However, there came a time when I felt like I needed a new experience, to branch out of my comfort zone and really see what else was out there. After working for a local news station for two years right out of college I started to apply to other news stations all over the country. That’s when Charleston called.

Without thinking twice, I took the job and within a month I had moved 900 miles away from the place I had called home for 22 years. It was terrifying, but I was determined to embrace change and try to make the most out of it. I got promoted within my company in just two months, made a close group of friends, and even found a church community to be a part of. Ten months into the job is when my life was completely turned upside down. In the middle of my shift my mom called, giving me the news that my dad had a stroke and was in the hospital. My heart sank. As you can probably imagine, I didn’t handle the news well and wanted nothing more than to be home as soon as possible.

I was able to make it home for five days before having to return to work. When I finally did go back to work, I wasn’t the same person. I turned cold. I was pushing friends away, getting upset over every little thing imaginable, and experiencing multiple panic attacks a day. Things got so bad, I broke down and quit my job on a whim one mid-June afternoon. One piece of advice my dad always told me after graduating was “don’t quit a job unless you have another one lined up”, and that piece of advice flew right out the window. Having no job and nearly no one to turn to, I made the decision to move home. I felt weak, depressed, and purely lost. I had grown to love the city of Charleston, and couldn’t imagine moving back to the cold winters of Albany, but it seemed like I had no other choice if I wanted to get better.

I’ve now been back in the area for five months and can happily say I’ve grown such an appreciation for where I have the privilege of living and some of the amazing people I have surrounding me. Life is so much more than going to work, coming home to make dinner, maybe meeting friends for drinks on the weekend and going shopping, then repeating it all the week after. Experiencing the love and support from so many people got me thinking that I can’t just sit around and take the support, but I need to give back in some way. With the holidays now in full swing, it’s made me particularly conscious of the way I’ll be giving this year. I’ve always been a big gift giver, and spend a lot of time picking out special items for the people closest to me, but never thought about the people that may need something of comfort more than me or any of my friends do.

This all brings me back to my dad.

Seeing him in a hospital bed was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. During that entire experience, all I wanted was for him to feel comfortable in the setting he was in. Stumbling upon Twill gave me the hope I was looking for. I could buy a blanket for a friend and in return, Twill donates one to someone in need. If that’s not a win-win situation for a crazy Christmas shopper like myself, then I don’t know what is.

Without rambling on, I want to encourage anyone who’s reading this to take on a challenge this holiday season and be conscious of what you’re buying and consider giving back. Sometimes something as simple as a blanket, can make a bigger impact than you realize.

I hope everyone out there enjoyed hearing my story, and I can’t wait to share the stories of the thousands of others benefiting from such a great cause in the coming months!
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Veteran's Day Story of Hope

Posted by Shaina Kaye on

For nearly 100 years Americans have taken a day out of our non-stop 365-24-7 schedules to pause and thank the men and women who have given so much to protect the freedoms and values that we hold dear. We owe active duty and veteran service members a debt of gratitude, today and every day.

Many people in our community have deep personal connections to Veterans Day, and I am no exception. My family has a rich history of service – a great-uncle who was a Prisoner of War in Nazi Germany, a grandfather who served in the Navy during World War II and an uncle who sacrificed so much and served in the Gulf War.

As part of Twill’s ongoing efforts to provide hope and joy to everyone in need of a little bit extra warmth, and in part to show our endless gratitude to those who have served and continue to serve, we have partnered with Operation Gratitude, an incredible organization that compiles 200,000+ care packages annually filled with food, entertainment, hygiene, and handmade items, plus personal letters of appreciation to Veterans, First Responders, New Recruits,  Wounded Heroes, their Care Givers, and to individually named U.S. service members deployed overseas and their families waiting at home.

Twill is doing several things today to say “thank you.” Today only we are donating a beanie for every $11.11 bracelet purchased. The beanies will be personally delivered to the Operation Gratitude headquarters later this month to be carefully hand-packed alongside other care package items.

Additionally, today we are sharing a special story of hope from an absolutely incredible retired U.S. marine who lost both of his legs in Afghanistan. Please check it out, share it, and take a moment to say “thank you:” http://abcnews.go.com/US/veteran-lost-legs-works-provide-hope-fellow-wounded/story?id=43454877
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