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Nick Casella lost his son, Marc, in 2008. Though it’s not been easy, Nick says he’s focused that loss into something positive. (Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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At work and on his own time, Nick Casella is working to find aid for families and organizations concerned with helping chronically ill children.
With Health Insurance Associates, Nick has been helping people navigate Medicare and Social Security matters from the same Washington Avenue location since 1999. Though the office is moving to State Street on July 1, he’ll be continuing in a business that, he says, is more about taking care of people than making money.
“You’re in a business where you’re helping somebody,” he says.
But he doesn’t stop when he leaves work.
“We try to give back as much as possible in various community events, especially with kids and seniors,” Nick says. “Because we deal with Medicare, we always want to give back to the people who give to us.”
On Sunday, June 30, the Italian-American Youth Foundation (IYF) will host a clam bake at Anthony’s Ocean View in New Haven to benefit its Marc Anthony Casella Education Fund. The fund is named for Nick’s son, who was a vice president of the Italian-American Youth Organization as it was changing from an Italian heritage group to a foundation focused on charity.
Marc was killed in a car accident at age 23 in March 2008.
“That year, friends and family got together and we started doing a golf tournament so we could give back in scholarships,” Nick says.
Over the years, their yearly benefit event changed from a golf tournament to a breakfast or brunch; now it’s the evening clam bake. The group has also expanded its charity beyond scholarships to help families with sick children who need a little extra help.
The event will feature a raffle and a silent auction in addition to the food. Those interested in attending can contact Nick’s office at 203-239-4044 and speak to Michelle.
“It’s always been a tough event to put on because of the tragedy, but we’ve tried to turn it around in a way that we give back and it makes us feel better,” Nick says. “For any parent to lose a child, it’s tough to deal with.”
He says the only way to cope with such a loss is to keep busy. Doing work for a good cause is a great way to do that.
“You take your pain and you divert it,” Nick says.
As a past president of the North Haven Rotary Club, Nick has long been involved with the community, but the loss of his son focused him.
“Anything that helps children,” he says, “we’re there.”
In the past, Nick has also volunteered at the high school in a mentoring capacity.
To date, the IYF has given more than $24,000 in scholarships and $40,000 to nonprofits focused on helping the families of children with severe health problems.
In addition to its yearly fundraisers, the IYF relies on donations.
“That’s incredible that people are out there,” Nick says, “They search out things like us….It’s really nice to know that.”
IYF also gives directly to individuals the organization discovers. In this way, Nick says he has met more people deserving of aid and found ways to connect them with the help they need.
Helping families cope with children with demanding daily needs has become a focus for Nick and the IYF.
“Just when you think it’s the worst thing that could ever happen to you, you look at someone else who’s got it even worse,” Nick says. “If you can help somebody like that, it makes it worthwhile.”
Once, Nick says, the IYF found a family with a child who required a wheelchair. They needed to remodel their home to make it accessible for her.
“I can’t even imagine what the family goes through with this child day in and day out, but they do it,” he says.
The IYF was able to offer her $5,000. By chance, the family had also received a $10,000 grant and, together, the two sources covered the entire cost of the renovations.
“It wasn’t planned this way,” Nick says. “It gets you.”
Serendipitous encounters like these happen year after year, Nick says. Because they have developed a network of donors and recipients it has become easier to present families in need with the help they require.
“A couple of the kids that we’ve helped, unfortunately, aren’t with us anymore,” Nick says, “but we helped them when they needed it. If it made their lives good for a day, a month, a year, it was worth it.”
To nominate a Person of the Week, email Nathan Hughart at n.hughart@Zip06.com.
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