What began as a horrific tragedy became an altruistic mission for a Franklin Square woman who lost her 46-year-old husband to a drunken driver two years ago.
Denise DeCrescito founded the Christopher DeCrescito Memorial Foundation last year to honor her late husband. Its two primary goals are to raise awareness among teens about drunk driving and to offer a monetary gift to the families of victims of those killed by drunken drivers, said organizer Cristina Lopez-O’Keeffe. The group’s second annual fundraiser will be held this weekend.
“This money is meant to offset mortgage and rent payments or to go toward bills—just something practical to help at a time when everything is in chaos,” said Denise. “We hope we can bring a small amount of relief to a family overwhelmed with grief.”
Chris DeCrescito was driving past the intersection of Franklin and Corona avenues on Feb. 27, 2013 when a Brian Daly—who was drunk and high on cocaine—ran a red light and crashed into Chris’ vehicle, killing him. Daly pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other charges before being sentenced to 12 years in prison. DeCrescito’s death was an unfathomable blow to his wheelchair-bound wife, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, and their three school-aged children.
In honor of Chris’ passion for bowling and his birthday on March 17, the DeCrescito Foundation will hold its second annual family bowling event at Garden City Bowl from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 15. Last year, the foundation raised $14,000 to help nine families in need.
“Chris was always the first one to volunteer for anything,” Denise said. “Habitat for Humanity, letters to Santa… wherever he could help someone he would.”
Preserving his memory in a charity seemed only natural.
Two types of tickets are available for the event. A blue ticket, $20, includes bowling, entertainment and refreshments. A pink ticket, $60, includes bowling, refreshments and participation in the “Star Gazer Outerstuff” half-time fashion show, organized by East Coast Starz. Free clothing and professional makeup and hairstyling services will be provided for participants as well as a “swag bag” to take home.
There will also be a meet and greet and autograph signings with former New York Jets football player and Hofstra alum Wayne Chrebet as well as a variety of musical performances.
Various sponsors have donated baskets and items that will be raffled off, including Rangers tickets, an electric guitar set and tickets to Aladdin on Broadway.
Two of the families that were aided by the foundation will be in attendance. Denise said that many of the people they help want to give back in some way, whether by volunteering or spreading awareness about drunk driving.
“Drunk driving is a problem and it’s not going away,” Denise said. “We need to do more practical things to prevent it.”
To that end, the foundation is working with Long Island car services to provide discounts for people who are unable to drive themselves home. Denise said there is nothing wrong with alcohol. But it’s the poor choices people make while drinking that leads to these fatal consequences.
CDMF also developed a customized jewelry line this year. A variety of bracelets and necklaces are available for purchase through their GoFundMe page. Each piece of jewelry is engraved with the initials of the organization, CDMF. Some jewelry also has “Drunk Driving Kills” on its tags. All the proceeds go to the families of those killed by drunk drivers.
“It helps keep me focused on something I can do,” Denise said of the charity. “Chris would be proud of what we’re doing.”
Denise said that everything they’re doing comes from a family that understands what other families in this situation are going through in a way that others cannot. And her efforts aren’t slowing down any time soon. The foundation is already planning an outdoor event for September at Eisenhower Park.
“You either have someone to turn to or you don’t,” she said. “Many widows are in a position where they have to sell their homes or rejoin the work force after being a stay at home mom. We want to help as many people as we can.”
Tickets for the event can be purchased via the websitegofundme.com/DeCrescito-Foundation. The event is also seeking raffle donations and lane sponsorships. For sponsorship information, ticket options and event questions, contact Denise DeCrescito at 516-491-1683 or [email protected]