This week’s Liberty Bank SurPRIZE Squad mission took us to the Naugatuck Valley to honor a local woman who runs two non-profit organizations for the community.
“She's just a very giving person; and all of that love and affection comes here back to our students and our staff,” said Darlene Lerz, principal of Tinker Elementary School.
Lerz was speaking about Jessica Ocasio, who not only works hard at Tinker Elementary School in Waterbury, but devotes much of her time after school to two non-profit organizations, both of which are near and dear to her heart.
Twenty-five years ago, Ocasio and her family created the Rivera Memorial Foundation in honor of her father, Eddie Rivera, who was a Waterbury firefighter who died in the line of duty.
“Her father and another firefighter were on a false alarm call; the brakes went out on the fire truck and unfortunately crashed and they both lost their lives,” said Amy Davis, who is a friend of Jessica’s.
The program offers after-school programs, sports, internships and even summer camps to local children.
In addition, Ocasio turned another tragedy in her life into a support system for mothers across the state known as Annabella’s Angels.
“My husband and I lost our daughter Annabella, Dec. 9, 2014; and I went onto Facebook for different support gifts...and through the support groups on Facebook I learned of the ‘cuddle cots’,” Ocasio said.
“She actually purchased the first cuddle cot for the state of Connecticut,” said Executive Board member of Annabella’s Angels Nicole Mannetti. “St. Mary's Hospital and Waterbury Hospital both received them in January. Bristol Hospital was her last one, and she's about $400 away from presenting one to Hartford Hospital.”
The Liberty Bank SurPRIZE Squad was going to make sure that happened.
Part of the surprise was to make sure they had the $411 for the cuddle cot for Hartford Hospital, along with a donation to the Rivera Memorial Foundation after-school program.
For those who may be able to relate to what Ocasio and her family have gone through, she said “There's plenty of people that are here to support you.”
For more information on Annabella's Angels, click here.
For more on the Rivera Memorial Foundation, click here.
Know someone who you think deserves a visit from the squad? Click here to submit a nomination.
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