Animals hold a special place in the heart of Dante Vigliotti.
“Animals don’t have a voice,” he said. “When they need help, people aren’t always there.”
That doesn’t apply to Vigliotti, 18, who spent most of his middle and high school years volunteering and caring for pets at the animal shelter in Glen Cove at least once a week. He said the shelter doesn’t enjoy the same resources as others on Long Island, so he decided to do his part by undertaking multiple initiatives to raise money for the facility.
His efforts started in his parents’ basement several years ago after he bought goods from a local pet shop to start his own dog and cat supply store.
“I went door to door putting fliers in my neighbors’ mailboxes,” to draw attention to his business, Vigliotti said.
His plan worked. He raised and donated more than $1,500 to the shelter by selling dog and cat collars, leashes, food bowls and litter boxes.
It didn’t end there. A few years later, Vigliotti, who lives in Jericho, raised about $5,000 selling homemade scented candles.
Life became busier last year, so Vigliotti, the proud owner of a beagle named Sebastian, stopped volunteering at the shelter.
“It was great for me to be my own person,” he said.
Another special place in Vigliotti’s heart is reserved for his older brother, Nicholas, 19. He was born with a rare chromosomal disease that makes breathing and walking difficult. He breathes through a ventilator, eats via a feeding tube and requires round-the-clock care.
“I’ve been living with this my entire life and it gives me perspective,” Vigliotti said of his brother’s condition. “If I have a bad day, I know he has it worse. . . . I wouldn’t be the person I am if he wasn’t the way he is. And I thank him.”
HIGHER ED: Vigliotti will attend Stony Brook University and major in environmental science.
FRESHMAN FAST-FORWARD: He is looking forward to the next phase of his journey. “This is a big thing for me because I’ve always been a homebody. I can be myself. I’ve always been with my brother. Now it’s time for me to branch off. It has to happen eventually, because I want to be successful to provide for him in the future.”
WHAT MAKES YOU EXTRAORDINARY: “I think I’m a normal person trying to make a difference. People wouldn’t know what I’ve gone through in my life. Yet when I go home, I have to be mature for my age because of what I have going on.”