Monday will mark one year since the fateful day when Keri Trinca and her little boy, Jason, 7, died in a tragic Manorville car accident.
In the dark days following the accident, Keri Trinca's husband, Jay, remained by his children's bedsides as a community gathered together, holding vigils and organizing countless fundraisers to give him strength and buoy his spirits.
And, when little Marialena was released from the hospital in February, beating the odds, a community rejoiced.
Looking back on the past year, Jay Trinca thanked the community for their open hearts. "There has been an endless amount of love and support given to my family in so many ways, none of which will ever be forgotten, and the words 'thank you'aren't strong enough for what I would want to say to everyone," he said.
The Riverhead Raceway community, where Jason was a champion go-kart racer, paid tribute to their young star, lost too soon. 2011 Riverhead Raceway Modified Champion Justin Bonsignore raced in the 9th Annual Carquest Super Saturday charity event to raise funds for the Trinca family.
And the fundraising efforts continue: After meeting Trinca, former neighbor Maria Paladino felt compelled to help and, through her heartfelt mission, the Butterflies of Hope Foundation was born.
The organization was created to help families nationwide as they face devastating tragedy. A fundraiser, "The Keri & Jason Trinca Memorial Event," will be held on November 15 at Giorgio's in Baiting Hollow and will "celebrate two lives, gone too soon."
Paladino said despite the heartache, Mariaelena, 5, and Christopher Trinca, 3, are proof that miracles do exist.
"Just last week, Marialena, who, even after the accident, has managed to live up to her nickname, 'Freshie,' and made some truly amazing strides," Paladino said. "While sitting at the dinner table one night, she and her dad, Jay Trinca, were talking about the days of the week. She listed them all without hesitation, in what Mr. Trinca described as a 'home run' for him."
Next, Paladino said, her father asked Marialena what month it was, and she listed every one from January to December "without skipping a beat. It was definitely a tearful moment for Jay, as he recalled how almost one year ago to the day, he was told to 'expect the worst' with regard to Marialena's injuries. She was not expected to live."
Currently, Marialena is attending kindergarten in the Patchogue-Medford school district, and continues to receive occupational, speech and physical therapy on a daily basis, Paladino said.
Paladino, who has developed a loving bond with the Trinca family, said, ""Marialena Trinca is the 'hope' in The Butterflies of Hope Foundation, and she continues to amaze us all with her strength and her courage."
Christopher, she added, shows all the typical signs of a happy, well-adjusted three-year old. "He loves cars, he loves pizza, and he absolutely loves his daddy."