Birthdays are often signified by parties, celebrations with family, friends and lots of presents. But each year around his birthday, Tyler Fazzari, now a sophomore at Schreiber High School, has had his heart set on something different.
In 2012, Fazzari created a philanthropic movement called BirthdayBack, after he saw the devastation that Hurricane Sandy left behind. BirthdayBack’s mission is to inspire people of all ages to use their birthdays to raise money for other people, communities and organizations in need and to “celebrate by giving.” For the last eight birthdays, Fazzari has been raising money and giving back to his community and to those on Long Island who may be in need—this year is no different.
On Saturday, March 7, Fazzari will be hosting a fundraiser to honor the first responders from Port Washington and the surrounding areas. The event will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Protection Engine Company No.1 firehouse in Port Washington. Members of the Port Washington community are invited to attend the fundraiser, which will feature live music, food, sweets and swag. Although there will not be a cover charge, all proceeds from the event will be donated to the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation, which honors the sacrifice of firefighter Stephen Siller who sacrificed his life to save others on Sept. 11, 2001. The foundation also honors the military and first responders who continue to sacrifice their lives for the United States.
Fazzari chose this year’s BirthdayBack recipient after learning about the 9/11 Act and hearing about so many first responders growing ill with various cancers because of the aftermath of working at Ground Zero. This year, Fazzari is planning the event with his third grade teacher, Justin Ryan, a third generation protection firefighter.
“Mr. Ryan was a life changer for me in so many ways—as a teacher and as a friend,” Fazzari said. “He is a firefighter in our town and he was also at Ground Zero on 9/11. It is my honor to know him and work with him.”
Ryan has also enjoyed working with Fazzari and his mission to raise funds for the Tunnel To Towers Foundation.
“I can’t begin to express how proud I am of Tyler,” Ryan said. “When I first met him as a third grader, I knew there was something special about him. To be able help him continue this unbelievable tradition he started so long ago is something that every teacher hopes for.”
Inspired to create change and bring happiness to those around him, especially in the days and weeks after Hurricane Sandy destroyed many parts of Long Island, Fazzari began his first fundraiser by raising more than $20,000, which he donated to Long Beach’s East Elementary School. With the help of his mission, he was also able to donate a complete SMART Board system from Teq Smart Technologies, so the students could continue to learn with technology in the classroom.
With the first fundraiser a success, Fazzari set out to spread the movement. In 2013, Fazzari raised almost $1,000 to purchase classroom elements for the Nassau-Suffolk Services for Autism. During his visit at the school, he met then Congressman Steve Israel, who became inspired by Fazzari’s mission. Israel later mentioned Fazzari’s movement during a speech on the floor of the U.S. Congress. For Fazzari’s 11th birthday, his mission was to give back to the Wounded Warrior Project. More than 100 kids participated in the event, which raised more than $3,000 for the nonprofit organization.
Other past recipients of BirthdayBack have also included the Interfaith Nutrition Network, The DeRosa Foundation for Colon Cancer Research and Port Rowing’s Adaptive Program. In 2016, Fazzari was awarded the Leaders of Tomorrow Award from the Long Island Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
To date, BirthdayBack has raised more than $80,000 for various nonprofit organizations on Long Island. As for the future of Fazzari’s mission he hopes that his movement will become more widespread and many others decide to give back on their birthdays instead of receiving gifts.
“I believe that if everyone can give back on their birthdays, then the world would become a better place,” Fazzari said.
This year’s fundraiser will take place at the Port Washington Protection Engine Company No. 1 firehouse, located at 14 South Washington St. in Port Washington. For more information, visit www.birthdayback.com.