STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Heart wrenching stories aren’t supposed to hit close to home. Sadly, one has.
But a Staten Island charity has stepped forward to aid the young widow and mother who’s coping with tragedy.
Nicholas Chiarulli’s diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — Lou Gehrig’s disease — was ominous, inasmuch as ALS usually strikes those 50-plus.
The birth of Nicholas Joseph to Chiarulli and his wife, Joanna, on Nov. 2 lifted the pall of gloom. “He was able to hold him and feed him, and the baby brought Nick a tremendous amount of joy,” said Joanna.
But it was a brief respite; the 32-year-old passed away on Jan. 18.
While grieving and struggling to make sense of her loss, Mrs. Chiarulli, a first-grade special-education teacher at PS 29 in her home community of Castleton Corners, was approached by a colleague, Joanne Licata. Ms. Licata connected the widow to the Charleston-based charity Emergency Children’s Health Organization.
Yesterday, at the Advance office in Grasmere, the new mom was presented with a check for $10,000 by five of ECHO’s board members.
“After learning of the tragic experience that Joanna Chiarulli has been forced to endure, the board of directors felt that they could help ease her financial burden and provide assistance for living expenses, food, utilities and other living essentials, to help her raise her son,” said Pasquale Loporcaro, the charity’s executive director. “We realize that we are just a small part of what it will take to help her through this most trying time.”
Mrs. Chiarulli expressed her profund thanks for ECHO’s generosity, and credited family and friends who have been by her side throughout her husband’s illness and since his passing.
She takes solace in her fond memories of Nick, whom she describes as a remarkable person and brilliant software engineer who worked full time until October, despite the illness that made it impossible for him to communicate outside of typing on an iPad.
The couple met while students at Staten Island Technical High School and reconnected years later at the Jersey Shore. They wed in 2008.
That solid foundation helped them weather fate’s cruel blow.
Praising ECHO yesterday for the donation, Advance Editor Brian Laline said: “In today’s tough economic climate, it’s comforting to know of a charitable organization that has survived — and that you’ve brought such generosity into our house is touching. …
“Out of tragedy, there comes a ray of hope.”
Sebastian Angelico founded ECHO in April 2008, along with a group of diverse, energetic executive board members who pledged their support of sick children whose families find themselves in financial distress.
To date, the charity has awarded more than $300,000 to families on Staten Island and in New Jersey. The group conducts several fundraisers each year, the next scheduled for April 28 at the Excelsior Grand, New Dorp, followed by a golf outing in July and another charity event in the fall. Consult www.echoorganization.org for more information.