An open letter to our son Claudio:
It’s been one year since your time ended here on earth and you began your journey in heaven.
We wish we could tell you that it has been easy moving on without you. We miss you. We miss having you around to make us laugh. We miss the sound of your guitar and the steady stream of your friends coming in and out of our home. We have tried to continue your good works. We even started a foundation in your name, The Claudio Cares Foundation.
What we can tell you is that your life and legacy has inspired many to do good deeds in your name. Your mother felt your presence in church the Sunday after you passed and was inspired to begin the Foundation in order to motivate your peers. The day after your funeral, sitting in our kitchen with all your friends around, we launched your Facebook page. People from around the Hudson Valley watched your page as we marched to 1000 “likes” in a few hours, celebrating the milestone by playing your favorite Saturday Night Live skit, “More cow bell” on the Foundation page. We know that you were cheering just as loudly as we were.
Six weeks after you left us, we celebrated your birthday by having Claudio’s Can Drive. We were able to amass over 20,000 pounds of non-perishable food items that helped to feed hundreds of families in the Dutchess County area. All your friends, relatives, and even perfect strangers helped collect and box all the donations. Almost 1,000 people, some from as far away as Saratoga, helped collect, organize and deliver these items to three food banks in the Hyde Park/Poughkeepsie area. We received shipments from Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Connecticut and Manhattan, just to name a few. Every school district helped to collect, sending school buses to drop off what they collected. Fire companies drove through neighborhoods as people came out and brought whatever they had in their pantries. Stores, restaurants and businesses set up collection boxes with your name and picture on them. It was unreal. Your aunts made over 600 cupcakes that we handed out. At 3:38 PM, the time you were born 17 years ago, we sang Happy Birthday to you. This year, we hope to double our collection and hope to include more food banks. All because you inspired us to give of ourselves.
With the help of your family, friends, classmates, and strangers, we were able to fundraise at 5 major events and give away over $10,000 in the form of donations, scholarships and awards. Claudio’s Can Drive, Claudio’s Pork Roast, Claudio’s Movie Day, Claudio’s 5K, and Claudio’s Car Show –they were all major happenings that helped us raise all the funds that we donated and will continue to donate in the future.
You always told us to go big or go home. So we went BIG! We awarded the Claudio Coppola Student leadership award to a FDR High School Senior and five eighth graders at various middle schools. We also awarded the Claudio Coppola Distinguished Educator Award to a deserving teacher at FDR High School. For this year’s class, your graduation year, we will increase that number to four high schools and eight middle schools and hope to include every high school and every middle school in Dutchess County by 2015. Along the way, we also collected back-to-school items and back packs, supplying the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie and the Hyde Park School District with things that kids need to be successful students.
Because of the generosity of the people in the area, we have begun to look ahead to the day that we will be able to expand your Foundation into building computer and science labs, and music and art studios at area high schools. We have also looked to other avenues to help our local young people excel, to let them see that this world is filled with loving, giving people and to instill in them the unselfish qualities that you exuded.
We started a program called Claudio’s 1%. Claudio’s 1% initiative will attempt to inspire children of all ages, to give 1% of their time and effort helping and volunteering. There are many ways they can give just a little bit of their time. From charity organizations, to helping a neighbor, to donating blood. If we can get all your friends, classmates and peers to give just 1%, we can inspire a generation. 1% is one simple act of kindness a day; lending a hand to an elderly neighbor, smiling at someone who is having a bad day, or giving a word of encouragement to someone with special needs. If enough people can join us in our quest, Claudio, one small act a day can change the world.
Claudio, all of this was done because of you! You encouraged both adults and young people throughout the Hudson Valley to give of themselves and help us to help others. We continue to receive calls and emails, from people far and wide asking how they can be a part of the Claudio Cares Foundation.
We already are planning the next slate of events. The 2nd annual Can Drive will once again be held on your birthday, Dec. 17. As we said, we want to double our collection this year to help even more people. On Feb. 7, 2014, we will host the Snowflake Gala, where we will honor an individual, organization, and business who exemplify the qualities that made you such a great young man. We truly wish you could be here. We are all going to dress up for the occasion and make it a really swanky affair. Knowing how much you loved yours, our all-volunteer staff will be wearing tuxedo T-shirts in your honor.
Claudio, you have inspired us to do many good things. We wish you could be here to see what we are doing in your name. Peak in on us from time to time and give us a gentle push to continue what you started. After all, you are the president of this Foundation and we wish to make sure we do everything the way you would want it to be done.
Well, Claudio, we’re sure you are happy where you are. Hold a few seats for us. We’ll be there before you know it to enjoy paradise with you. Take care, Our Sweet Boy.
Mom, Dad, Marcanthony, Geno, and Clara