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Raising Funds, Bottle by Bottle, in Westbrook

Published April 04, 2017 • Last Updated 02:30 p.m., April 04, 2017

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A young resident’s inspirational actions to support cancer patients following a teacher’s death took a tragic turn when cancer came to his family. His response, and that of the community, has been to step up the efforts, nickel by nickel.

Several years ago, when Matthew Scotella learned that cancer had felled his 4th-grade teacher Joanne Murray, he told his parents he wanted to do something for those facing cancer. With the support of his parents, Peter Scotella and Jennifer Curley, he founded Bottle It Up, a charity that raises funds to donate to Yale’s Smilow Cancer Center Closer to Free fund. Through collecting and then redeeming deposit bottles and cans, since it started, Bottle It Up has raised and donated $6,000 to Smilow.

Then, one year ago, Matthew Scotella himself was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer. Despite multiple doctor visits and a 12-hour surgery, he, his brothers (twins James and Andrew), and his parents are continuing to work on their charitable project.

“I’m always trying to instill in the kids—‘How can we have something positive come out of something so difficult?’” said Curley. “Matthew does not want this to be about his cancer—he started Bottle it Up as a way to help others.”

The Connecticut registered tax-exempt charity Bottle It Up even has its own website, www.bottleitup.org, on which Curley posts periodic bottle drive updates and letters of thanks received from Smilow for past donations.

This year, during the week of April 23 to 29, Bottle It Up’s push for donations of deposit bottles and cans will be community-wide event, with the help of Jennifer Waldron. Waldron first met Matthew Scotella and Curley at a Board of Education meeting where Scotella was recognized for his charitable work. That’s when she also learned of the Scotella family’s strength and determination in the face of Matthew’s rare brain tumor and his siblings Matthew and James’ neurological difficulties.

“Working on Bottle it Up keeps our mind off our own reality. It keeps us all busy and focused on helping others,” said Curley.

On the drive’s final day, Saturday, April 29 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the collection station at the Mulvey Center will add a food table and live music to entertain community members who come there to donate deposit cans and bottles as well as store redemption slips to the Smilow cause.

During the week of April 23 to 29, the town’s three schools will participate in the bottle and can drive by holding friendly contests to see which students and classrooms can bring in the most cans, bottles and store redemption slips for the Bottle It Up cause.

“The top three student winners at each school will earn a $25 gift card. At Daisy Ingraham [Elementary School], the grade bringing in the most will earn a pizza party,” said Waldron. “We’re trying with this drive to help kids engage with their classmates and support those who have cancer.”

The community bottle drive’s leaders are still seeking volunteers to help. Anyone interested should contact Waldron by sending a text or calling her at 203-640-0741 or visit www.bottleitup.org for more information. Volunteers will receive a commemorative T-Shirt for their time and effort. Stop & Shop in Old Saybrook has offered the Bottle It Up volunteers use of the store’s redemption center between 9 p.m. and midnight on the drive’s final weekend.

“We’re really hoping this drive will become an annual event. We want the Bottle It Up organization to gain visibility and grow to honor Matthew,” said Waldron. “In addition to bottles and cans, we will also accept donations of store bottle and can redemption receipts and cash donations on Saturday, between 10 [a.m.] and 1 [p.m.] at the Mulvey Center. One hundred percent of the funds we raise will be donated to the Yale Smilow Cancer Center’s Closer to Free fund.”

Bottle It Up

The Bottle It Up Community Bottle Drive will be held from April 23 through 29 at the Westbrook Town Hall. Dumpsters will be placed on property for bottle and can drop off. On Saturday, April 29, volunteers will be on-site to collect bottles, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the collection station will feature a food table, live music, and raffles. For more information, call or text Jennifer Waldron at 203-640-0741 or visit www.bottleitup.org.

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