Despite the fact that Maria Paladino didn't know her Manorville neighbor Keri Trinca, after a tragic took the lives of Keri and her seven-year-old son, Jason, and left her remaining two children, Christopher, 2, and Marialena, severly injured, she opened her heart to help.
"When I heard about the accident, I felt horribly," she said. "I felt compelled to do something to memorialize Keri and Jason."
Paladino, who runs an event planning company, Paladin Events, used her time and talents to create a way to help families like the Trincas -- and others facing life after a tragic and unexpected accident -- navigate the dark days afterward.
After meeting Jay Trinca, Keri's devastated husband, Paladino said she knew she had to do something to help; Trinca has spent the days and months since the accident by his children's bedsides. And, with Marialena left permanently disabled, Paladino said the need for financial assistance is compelling.
"I learned more about Keri and Jason and was finally put in touch with Jay," she said. "He's an amazing man. To see him with his children is amazing. He is a man who lost so much, yet still manages to wake up every morning."
His stength, Paladino said, inspired her to take action.
After meeting Trinca, Paladin said, the Butterflies of Hope Foundation was born. The organization was created to help families nationwide as they face devastating tragedy. , "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, who has children the same age as the Trinca children, said the parallels touched her heart. "This foundation will help future families," she said.
But, she said, support is critical. Her goal, Paladino said, is to work with local hospitals and social service organizations to identify families in need. "They'll be my first eyes and ears," she said.
Paladino also created a YouTube video to help spread the news about the fundraiser to benefit the Trinca family, and about the new Butterflies of Hope Foundation -- a video into which she poured her heart and grief over the tragedy that touched the hearts of thousands. "Keri was a young mother who loved her kids more than anything," Paladino said.
Of little Jason, she said, "That child was destined to be a star at something -- and his life was cut short."
Paladino, who has since moved to Nesconset, said the Butterflies of Hope Foundation will forever mark the lives of two lives lost too soon -- and help other families "in their greatest tme of need."
Despite the work involved, Paladino, a mom of three with a business, said creating the new foundation has changed her life. "It's been the busiest summer of my life, but also the most rewarding. The grace and gratitude I've received from the Trinca Family has been astounding, to say the very least, and awe-inspiring."
The Butterflies of Hope Foundation, she added, was "born out of sheer love, compassion, and a true calling to help those who are struck by sudden and unspeakable loss."
Tickets for the November 15 benefit at Giorgio's to help the Trinca family cost $70 per person; $55 for children under 10. The event will feature dinner, entertainment, and a Chinese auction
Checks can be made payable to "Butterflies of Hope Foundation" and mailed to 17 Park Circle, Nesconset, NY, 11767.
Donations for the Chinese auctions, including gift certificats and baskets, are also appreciated.
For more information, go to www.butterfliesofhopefoundation.org