CHARACTER COUNTS

Westwood soccer player aiming to help others beyond state lines

Oct 8, 2018, 1:30 PM | Updated: Oct 9, 2018, 6:15 pm

Soccer, gymnastics and swimming can be very demanding, but that isn’t stopping Westwood High School junior Montana “Tanna” Gilletti from helping others in — and out of — the state of Arizona.

Through numerous groups and organizations, Gilletti is changing lives one day at a time.

“A year ago I went to this Rotary Youth Leadership awards program and it was a weekend-long program sponsored by Rotary, and it taught a lot about leadership but it also opened up my eyes to service and the importance of it,” Gilletti said. “From there I became an assistant governor for the Interact District Council, which is a youth version of Rotary and our main focus is to send mobility devices to Africa and Polio vaccinations, as well.

“To see how affected the people in Kenya were who received the mobility devices from the year previously, it was amazing.”

After seeing the impact of what she and others are doing from afar, Gilletti’s ultimate goal is to one day travel to Africa so she can help out firsthand.

While Gilletti is involved with her interact club at Westwood, she continues her community work with three other high schools in the area.

In addition to the eye-opening experiences Gilletti has heard about, a study abroad trip to Chile also sparked the soccer player to do more.

“It was truly life-changing. I learned so much about other cultures in South America and just in general,” Gilletti said. “In Chile, there’s a lot of poverty and there were so many people that were so kind living in terrible situations.

“They showed so much perseverance and if they had families, they took care of them to the best of their abilities, and they continued to smile through everything.”

When she isn’t working on helping those in need, Gilletti spends time with the younger generation.

“Little Warriors is another service club where we go to the elementary school once a month and hang out with the first graders and kindergartners,” Gilletti said. “It’s amazing, they really love when we come. We give them these Little Warriors shirts, too, around Christmas and donate books as well.”

As part of Little Warriors, Gilletti is playing games, reading books and doing other activities with kids at Emerson Elementary, but is also creating special bonds at the same time.

She’s not done there, though.

Gilletti continues to create bonds with others as a volunteer at Camp Civitan, a week-long retreat for those with developmental disabilities.

“At the camp, there’s a bunch of campers who have disabilities, but it’s a place where they aren’t judged by anybody and no matter who you are you’re accepted,” Gilletti said, as her face lit up thinking about the camp and its campers. “I’ve had a few campers come up to me and I’ve asked them why they like Camp Civitan so much and they told me it was their favorite place in the whole world, because it was the only place where they can be themselves because everyone was different.

“It was a really heartwarming moment for me because knowing you’re such a big part of somebody’s life, it’s really changing for you.”

And while helping others is fulfilling for Gilletti, it’s something she was born with.

“She always had a hard time watching little kids struggle,” Gilletti’s mother Jodi Gilletti said of her daughter’s passion to help others at an early age. “She always wanted to make sure everybody was fed and well taken care of and then from there she just wanted to be a doctor.”

In second grade, Gilletti decided she was going to be a doctor, and later a surgeon, to help others in need.

“I love playing sports and I love being busy and the best way I can think of being busy is doing a bunch of volunteer work.”

With her sights set on traveling to Africa and ultimately becoming a surgeon, Gilletti is definitely in the business of helping people.

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Westwood soccer player aiming to help others beyond state lines