NORTH SMITHFIELD – An ambitious senior project by one student at North Smithfield High School this year raised nearly $15,000 for an organization that helps homeless and at-risk veterans, funds presented to the group this week amid praise for the achievement from town officials.
Calla Puccetti presented a donation of $14,943 to Ernest Quarry of Operation Stand Down Rhode Island, money raised through a charity road race held in town in April.
The nonprofit organization, founded in 1993, is considered Rhode Island’s primary resource for those who have served, with a mission to strengthen the veteran community by providing crucial wrap-around services.
“Our primary goal is to help homeless veterans and their families,” explained Quarry.
Based in Johnston, OSDRI has 88 units throughout the state, providing financial assistance, clothing and more for veterans in need, as well as operating a food pantry.
Puccetti’s senior project, completed as part of a graduation requirement at the school, was to revive the Northmen 5K – an event she noted has not been held for the past five or six years. The senior broke the record for participation in the race, drawing in 272 participants and bringing in more than $25,000, with some going to reimbursement for race-related expenses.
“There were some really fantastic senior projects this year,” said Town Council President John Beauregard at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, June 21, noting that Puccetti’s stood out. “She really struck a nerve with what she’s trying to do for the veterans.”
Puccetti, a member of girl’s cross country team at NSHS chose former Northmen volleyball coach Jeff Crins to serve as her mentor for the project and former members of the North Smithfield Athletic Association, which used to organize the 3.1 mile run/walk, also stepped in to help with the event.
Quarry thanked Puccetti for the effort.
“It’s a big undertaking,” he said.
“The money is great and everything, but the exposure is more important to us,” Quarry added. “What she has done – bringing exposure to the veteran world – is a great thing.”
Of the funds, he noted, “That all goes directly to them in some shape or form.”
Beauregard presented a citation to Puccetti on behalf of the council and town administrator.
“The entire community takes pride in the dedication that is behind such an accomplishment by one of its citizens,” it read.