Riccio Pick Me Ups Foundation

June 2024

Each April on Founders Day, alumni and friends come together online and in person to honor Kean’s history and provide financial support for the University. Some give out of gratitude for their Kean education, and others choose to honor a faculty member or special mentor, but all help fund Kean’s continued advancement. It is a day when Cougar pride is both celebrated and contagious.

In honor of Founders Day 2024, one contribution was a stellar example of how one person’s good work can begin a cycle of caring: a special gift received from the Riccio Pick Me Ups Foundation in memory of Kean alumnus Brett Christian Coleman ’18 to benefit the Kean University Wellness Center.

The Riccio Pick Me Ups Foundation was created by Amara Riccio ‘17, who after suffering a traumatic brain injury at age 13, spent nine days in a coma and needed to relearn how to walk, talk and eat. Amara and her family, in gratitude for the help they had received during this time, founded the Riccio Pick Me Ups Foundation with a mission to provide inspiration and joy to others suffering from life-changing medical issues. They started by giving “pick-me-ups,” such as homemade gifts and cards, to chronically ill hospital patients. Over time, their work expanded to include financial, recreational, emotional and educational support to individuals and families with complex health needs.

Amara Riccio, who earned her bachelor of arts degree at Kean, spoke at a disability awareness event at the University several years ago. That is where she met Brett Coleman, then a Kean student. A friendship was born. Coleman became involved with the Riccio Foundation’s work, while completing his Kean degree and managing his own chronic health challenges. He also built a career in finance, first as a project manager for Extell Development and later as Chief Financial Officer of Spec-X, before he passed away in February.

In memory of Coleman, the Riccio Pick Me Ups Foundation directed their Founder’s Day gift to support the Kean University Wellness Center.

“Brett continues to help others as he lived his daily life, while facing medical challenges. Brett’s legacy of kindness will live forever. His strength, determination, courage, compassion and genuine personality were the greatest pick-me-up,” said Lori Riccio, Riccio Foundation president and Amara’s mother.

Amara Riccio’s goal to bring a smile to others who are ill has been realized through her family foundation. Her positive message continues even as her own health has had several setbacks. Most recently, she has co-authored a book, This Is Why I Dance, an uplifting memoir.

The Kean University Foundation is grateful for the Riccio Foundation’s thoughtful gift, which will benefit wellness initiatives for our students. It honors a courageous alumnus and allows us to share Amara’s inspirational story of how one young girl’s altruism created a cycle of caring that continues to grow and inspire others.

Riccio Pick-Me-Ups is a 501(3)(c) nonprofit based in Howell, New Jersey with a mission to provide F.R.E.E. (Financial, Recreational, Emotional and Educational) support to individuals and families with complex health needs.

The Kean University Wellness Center provides holistic, integrated health and wellness services for the entire campus community. The Center’s interdisciplinary, student-centered and culturally inclusive approach is designed to educate and empower students, faculty and staff to make informed lifestyle choices. The Wellness Center includes the Kean Counseling Center, Student Health Services, Alcohol and Other Drug Services, the Office of Accessibility Services and Cougar Food Pantry.