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Apr 8, 2019 2:28 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Cheerleader Recognized For Raising Thousands For Breast Cancer Awareness

Cheer teams from Westhampton Beach and Half Hollow Hills West wearing Emily Arpino's pink bows for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. COURTESY EMILY ARPINO
Apr 9, 2019 2:30 PM

The Westhampton Beach High School varsity cheerleading team donned something special at their school’s football games in October: pink bows in their hair that teammate Emily Arpino made to raise money to fight breast cancer.One end of the bow was decorated with a “Tackle Cancer” decal, a nod to football season, while the other end gleamed, the familiar breast cancer awareness ribbon made out of rhinestones.

But it wasn’t just the Hurricanes who showed their spirit with Emily’s homemade bows. Cheer teams across Long Island—including Eastport-South Manor, Sachem, East Islip, East Meadow and Half Hollow Hills West in Dix Hills—bought her bows and wore them during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, helping to raise more than $4,200.

“Every year, cheer teams buy pink bows for breast cancer awareness,” said Emily, a junior at Westhampton Beach High School. “I was looking into the websites that sell them, and they don’t donate the money anywhere. So I wanted to kind of change that.”

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, the nation’s largest youth recognition program based on community service, commended Emily’s generosity by awarding her a certificate of excellence on March 12. She was among approximately 450 individuals in the country who earned the recognition for their volunteer work.

“I thought it was a really great experience. I didn’t realize how kind of easy it was to start something like this,” she said. “It seems kind of intimidating when you think about it, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.”

After spending last summer assembling the bows, she and her mom, Jacqueline Arpino, traveled to schools across the island to deliver them. She ended up selling 420 bows, at $10 each, to teams who were eager to support her cause.

Emily spread the word about her project through her coach, Kathleen Rafferty, who shared a flier with other Long Island coaches that had Emily’s email listed, as well as by reaching out to athletic directors at schools.

“Half Hollow Hills West, we actually played them in October, so both our teams were wearing them,” she noted. “So both our teams took a picture together with the bows on. It was cool to see.”

All of her earnings went toward LI2Day, a nonprofit that raises funds for breast cancer survivors, awareness and research on Long Island. The organization hosts three annual run/walk events during the summer, and Emily’s funds will specifically support the LI2Day 13.1 Mile Walk on June 8 at Smith Point Park in Shirley, which she hopes to attend.

No one close to her has been affected by breast cancer, but she said that it does run in her family. Emily said she has friends involved in the Fight Like A Girl chapter of LI2Day, based in Shoreham-Wading River, so she became familiar with the organization’s philanthropy and decided to donate the funds there.

“I think Emily’s outstanding. The work that she’s done to raise money for cancer has been outstanding,” Westhampton Beach High School Principal Dr. Christopher Herr said. “She’s a rock star.”

He added, “Students at Westhampton Beach are constantly looking at some really good causes and taking them on. Emily’s part of something pretty special.”

While Emily plans to continue the fundraiser next year as a senior, she hopes it will survive long after she heads off to college. She said she wants to get her cousin Carly Nosworthy, an upcoming sophomore and cheerleader at Sachem High School North, to continue her work.

Outside of cheerleading and school, she also splits her time competing as a baton twirler and taking music lessons for flute and piccolo. Her academic interests are in foreign language, math and science, and she plans to pursue a college degree in one of those fields.

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