“Hey Gaia, I’m Simonetta Lein. Nice to meet you. Roberto from the Veronesi Foundation said you can help me with my charity, The Wishwall Foundation.” This is how I met Gaia Ceccaroli, an Italian, fashion and art lover like me. She is a hard worker as I am, one of those rare people you just don’t find around anymore.
When we were first introduced, Gaia was busy creating charity auctions in both Italy and the US to benefit many nonprofits on
Charitybuzz.com, based in NYC. We started to create charity auctions, bringing the worlds of celebrities and fashion together for a good cause. I was electrified: what a great way to connect with important people and get them excited to support my charity!
Our partnership started out slowly over one year ago, and due to her bravura, she is now the official Secretary of The Wishwall Foundation. Gaia taught me something very important: “Everyone can have a great idea, but it is in the execution that you make it successful.” This is so true. Let’s take Gandhi as an example: if he did not have a brother who pushed and encouraged him, Gandhi would have never become the hero we all know today. Likewise, I wouldn’t be who I am without smart and loving people that surround me, and one of these people is Gaia. The other is my husband, Raphael Anthony Amabile, our Foundation’s President.
Gaia is helping me to replicate the famous Wishwall of Philadelphia all around the world. “This is your format Simo, you created something incredible, we will get it in every city”! Success is that thin line between having great ideas, and being able to listen and take advice. Since we have started working together here are the results: the next cities will be Marlton NJ, USA on December 10th 2016; Milan, Italy in April 2017; Sierra Vista AZ, USA on Memorial Day 2017; and we are currently working on The Wishwall in Washington D.C. We help to make meaningful wishes come true, wishes with social impact for the community, and we create walls of hope as a form of permanent art for the host cities. We are a global movement with local outreach. As I am writing this, I still can’t believe it’s for real. I still see myself as the same girl growing up in my little place in Italy, dreaming to go into the world and impact it with an IDEA. I’ll be heading back in a few months to my Milan, where I lived for many years. This time however, I am going there to set up the first European Wishwall, it is all an unbelievable feeling. Amazing things happen when women get together: they are extremely powerful.
Gaia is from Milan and comes from a hard-working family. Her father is still trying to understand her mission of making the world a better place. She is a Millennial like me and I am all about enhancing my generation. I knew I wanted her in my life when she told me that every night, before going to bed, she checks the NASA website. She loves astrophysics, this is not so common.
She graduated in classical studies like me and was awarded a degree in Economics and Management in Arts, Culture, Media and Entertainment at the Bocconi University in Milan. I’m very grateful she chose that faculty because she had the chance to also explore the world of charity, and our destinies crossed.
Gaia works with me but also helps other people in the communication and events department of Fondazione Francesca Rava – NPH Italia, that helps children in need in Italy and worldwide. She is the Italian representative of NPH – Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, a non-profit organization that has been helping orphaned and abandoned children for over 60 years in 9 countries of Latin America including Haiti.
Like me, she works with passion and commitment, and takes risks every day. Gaia goes out of her comfort zone by speaking with as many people as she can.
She always inspires me telling me weird stories of her talking with strangers: lately she was in Los Angeles and decided to speak with a man while they were on line in a coffee shop. He was talking about movies while on the phone. Conclusion? He will help our Foundation and Gaia’s other charity projects using his important connections in Hollywood. It turns out that he is a well-known producer! She did the same at a party on the Tiber river in Rome, and one of our primary partners for The Wishwall will be the man she decided to speak with. The nicest story however, happen recently when an Uber driver in Los Angeles said a prayer for her because she told him she was having a difficult moment. The driver wanted to help her and I think this is touching.
Gaia and I speak a lot about being female Millennial entrepreneurs. To be an entrepreneur these days I would suggest to follow Gaia’s modus operandi: speak with strangers, share contacts, help and smile. “Do not be jealous of your contacts, but be confident of your connections”.
She has another suggestion and I could not agree more: start with the things you like the most. Her first charity auctions were invitations to fashion shows because she is Italian and loves fashion. Gaia often speaks of her Italian style gene. She ended up auctioning off for charity all of the invitations to the Milan Fashion Week shows under the patronage of the Italian fashion Council, plus an experience in Vogue Italia with the legendary editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani.
Her passion for fashion (which we have in common) has helped us a lot: fashion means identity and identity means having a message to share, so we use fashion to share a good message: buying in second hand shops; re-wearing the same red carpet dress; or working pro bono for new brands that are socially conscious.
One secret behind the fashion world that we both discovered helping others: the right outfit can say more than one thousand words. She always calls me before an important event to talk about how her outfit could help her to improve her message, as do I.
Nowadays, we live in a world based on social media made by millennials. Gaia likes to think that millennials have the social media gene like Italians have their style gene. Thusly, everything comes naturally, but I can understand when she said “I would prefer to see more commitment and content behind the next good looking selfie on Instagram”. That is my mantra.
When I created The Wishwall in Philadelphia, I thought it was possible to find a way to bring attention to important social themes using art, fashion, and entertainment. Gaia has the same mission and is helping the Foundation to combine them and reach this goal: to create a solid structure and a replicable format. The Wishwall is Fashion. I am Fashion and Gaia Ceccaroli is Fashion for being unique, never giving up, and letting smiles and actions talk louder than words. We are fashion because we have the Italian style that everyone recognizes all over the world.