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Bellevue lacrosse players dedicated to service | Prep sports feature

Gavin Cipoletti (left) and Riley Gulrajani organized a blanket drive around the Bellevue School District for their latest community service project.  - Josh Suman, Bellevue Reporter
Gavin Cipoletti (left) and Riley Gulrajani organized a blanket drive around the Bellevue School District for their latest community service project.
— image credit: Josh Suman, Bellevue Reporter

Riley Gulrajani and Gavin Cipoletti realize the perception.

Bellevue is the home to the region's posh, exclusive types-insulated individuals who would rather remain in the comfort of their suburban bubble than seek out and address problems facing society's less fortunate.

"On the Eastside, we don't really see that side of the community," Gulrajani said. "It is kind of hidden."

Bellevue's unemployed, homeless and destitute populations remain out of sight, out of mind for some. But the two Bellevue High students and members of the two-time defending state champion lacrosse program are making it their mission to keep the underprivileged in the front of their consciousness.

Their service has taken on various forms and aided several causes, and most recently took on a simple yet necessary form in a blanket and bedding drive for Labateyah Youth Home, which provides family support and temporary housing for Native Americans in need.

"We thought it was just something small," Gulrajani said. "We take blankets for granted and especially during this cold season, we thought it would be a good way to help out."

What began as a simple gesture quickly grew, as the duo decided to involve elementary and middle schools in the district, as well as Sacred Heart School, where Cipoletti attended.

In total, four elementary schools, along with Chinook Middle, Bellevue High and Sacred Heart, donated around 200 blankets and other bedding to Labateyah, spearheaded by Cipoletti and Gulrajani. Both said the impact was monumental throughout the process.

"When you see it in person, it hits you emotionally," Cipoletti said. "We're just trying to find ways to help people."

Cipoletti began volunteering during his time as an elementary schooler at Sacred Heart, and has put in around 100 hours each year since. Gulrajani got an early start as well, volunteering since his time at Medina Elementary, and has previously given his time at Hopelink in Bellevue. He said that experience taught him the power simple gestures can have on those facing trying circumstances and hardship.

"Small things can have an impact on someone's life," he said.

For both, the opportunity to give back has always been one they couldn't pass up.

"I had to put myself in that position," Cipoletti said. "Hopefully we gave them a little boost of confidence, to let them know there are people out there to help."

Cipoletti and Gulrajani each said they plan to continue volunteering their time and energy, and they are far from the only ones in the Bellevue lacrosse program doing so.

Eight Wolverines received the Wolverine Guard Award for Community Service from the school's PTSA, awarded to those completing more than 100 hours in a calendar year.

Cipoletti said he hopes community service continues to remain an integral part of the program in years to come.

"We want to make it a normal thing," he said. "We've made a pretty good change, but we obviously hope it continues."

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