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Oct 2, 2012 5:27 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

New Foundation Is Born From Family's Tragedy

Oct 3, 2012 12:47 PM

In June 2005, Patchogue-Medford High School sweethearts Jay Trinca and Keri Miller celebrated their marriage at Giorgio’s in Baiting Hollow.

At the time, they thought they would have the rest of their lives to spend with each other. Over the next few years, they had three children together—Jason, Marialena and Christopher.

On November 15, some seven and a half years after exchanging wedding vows, Mr. Trinca will return to Giorgio’s. But this time he will be attending a memorial service for his late wife and their 7-year-old son, Jason, both of whom were killed in a car accident along County Road 111 in Manorville on October 8, 2011.

The event, which is being held at Giorgio’s because Ms. Trinca loved it there, according to family members and friends, is the first fundraiser of its kind being organized by the Butterflies of Hope Foundation, a new non-profit that provides financial assistance to families reeling from sudden tragedies. Proceeds will be given to Mr. Trinca and his two youngest children, Marialena, 5, and Christopher, 3. Marialena, also known as “Freshie,” and Christopher were also passengers in their mother’s 1998 Honda Accord when it was broadsided by a Ford E350 van while entering an intersection near their Manorville home. Both Marialena and Christopher were airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center where they were treated for life-threatening injuries.

Marialena, who suffered severe brain trauma, spent four months recovering in the hospital and is now permanently disabled but making progress, family members said. Christopher, who suffered a skull fracture and two detached eye sockets, was released following a week-long hospital stay and has made a full recovery.

Their mother was pronounced dead at the scene, and Jason, a student at Eastport Elementary School at the time of the crash, died a short time later at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.

Next month’s fundraiser, which is expected to attract more than 250 people and raise as much money as possible for the Trinca family, is being organized by Maria Paladino, a former Manorville resident who, despite not knowing the Trincas, said she was inspired by the way her former hometown rallied to help the family. She created the Butterflies of Hope Foundation in August and said the Trincas will be the first family her group helps.

“Our mission is about a long-term relationship that will help the families when they need us,” Ms. Paladino said this week. “It is about holding their hand through the process of grieving, coping and healing.”

Ms. Paladino, who now lives in Nesconset, is a wedding planner and event coordinator on the North Fork. She said decided to use her six years of experience as a planner to help organize a memorial that will double as a fundraiser. She said that proceeds will help Mr. Trinca and his two children cover their everyday needs, like buying groceries, as well as medical and physical therapy bills.

It was while planning next month’s event that Ms. Paladino said she was inspired to launch the Butterflies of Hope Foundation. She said her goal is to help as many local families in need as possible. “Each family will have different needs,” she said. “We will provide things on a day-to-day basis, like groceries.”

For the time being, Ms. Paladino is focusing all of her energy on the Trinca event, which will feature a Chinese auction, an ornament design station so kids can make Christmas ornaments for Marialena and Christopher, and speeches from family, friends and Mr. Trinca. So far, Ms. Paladino said the community support for her event has been outstanding, and she only sees it growing stronger as the event draws closer.

“The support has been phenomenal,” Ms. Paladino said. “We have had neighbors of the Trincas’ offering to help and be on the event committee. I am getting to know all of their friends and family, and the vibe I am getting is that Jason was destined to be a star, and Keri was an amazing woman who was truly, truly loved by everyone who knew her.”

Anthony Trinca, Mr. Trinca’s brother, said his family is deeply touched by the outpouring of support that they have received in the past year and are looking forward to next month’s event to say “thank you” to the community.

“On behalf of our family, we want to thank everyone for their ongoing support throughout the past year,” Mr. Trinca said. “My brother Jay is very grateful for what everyone has been doing and the overwhelming support and positive outlook everyone has had for him and his kids.”

Mr. Trinca also noted that Marialena has made significant progress since her release from the hospital in February. At the time, she had difficulty walking and talking and was unable to feed herself. After months of physical therapy, Mr. Trinca said “Freshie” is walking better with less assistance and can feed herself and maintain a conversation. After months of hard work, Marialena was able to start kindergarten in September in the Patchogue-Medford School District.

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