By Ann Marie Shambaugh
Jennifer Trapuzzano is on a mission to help children who have lost a parent. She helps lead a foundation that provides financial help and other support when a mom or dad passes away.
And although her organization is only a year old, she knows it’s making a difference, because she’s living through the tragedy herself.
Her husband, Nathan Trapuzzano, died April 1, 2014, after being mugged and shot to death on a morning walk in Indianapolis. Jennifer was pregnant at the time and gave birth to her daughter, Cecilia, about three weeks later.
“Nate was murdered, so it was someone else’s hand acting evilly taking him from us,” Jennifer said. “When I saw how many people reached out to us, it kind of restored my faith in humanity and gave me hope. There are evil people, but there are a lot of good people out there.”
After her husband’s death, Jennifer, who recently moved to Whitestown’s Eagles Nest neighborhood, and Nate’s siblings formed The Nathan Trapuzzano Memorial Foundation. She said Nate “was a champion of those who didn’t have a father,” so defining the nonprofit’s mission was easy.
“His siblings and I didn’t want (Nate’s death) to be the end of his life or his legacy,” Jennifer said. “We knew he still had so much to give the world. He was killed so young. We wanted to try to do something to carry his name on.”
On May 15 the foundation will hold its second annual NateWalk, a 5K run/walk that will also include games, guest appearances, food and a silent auction. It will be held in Avon, where Jennifer grew up. The previous night will be the inaugural NateNight, featuring an all-you-can-eat pasta dinner at St. Susana’s Catholic Church in Plainfield.
Funds raised through both events will support the memorial foundation’s mission. So far, it has helped five families cope with the loss of a parent.
Jennifer said the support she received from the community helped her get through the darkest days of her life. People brought meals for weeks, she said, and all of the items on her baby registry were fulfilled.
More than two years later, life can still be tough for Jennifer and Cecilia. They look at a book of photos of Nate every night so Cecilia can know about her father. Some days it’s especially hard for Jennifer to watch her daughter hit major milestones and not be able to share it with Nate, and she wonders what his opinions would have been on parenting and other issues.
But overall, it’s getting better.
“I found joy in my life again,” she said. “I’ve been able to grow as a person. I think I enjoy life even more than I did before, because I know every day is a gift.”
Other members of Nate’s family are still struggling to cope with his death, too.
“This year for me was almost harder. It’s been two years, and it feels like longer, but it also doesn’t,” said Shayne Trapuzzano, Nate’s sister and a co-founder of the foundation. “I’m still mad. I don’t know that that will go away.”
Shayne, who lives in Columbus, Ohio, and his other siblings, who live in Tampa, Fla., plan to attend the NateWalk. His parents, who live in Pittsburgh, also plan to attend. The foundation has held a NateWalk event in Pittsburgh and is hoping to organize one in Tampa someday, too.
The family hopes that by finding hope and strength in the midst of tragedy, they can keep Nate’s spirit alive, especially for Cecelia, who turned 2 years old April 25.
“She is a bundle of joy. She keeps us laughing all the time,” Jennifer said. “She’s been speaking sentences for months now and picks up on everything, a little too quickly sometimes.”
When: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. May 14
Where: St. Susanna’s Catholic Church, 1210 E. Main St., Plainfield
Cost: $10, children 4 to 10 years old eat for $5
More: The all-you-can-eat dinner will include pasta, salad, bread and dessert. Learn more at thenathanfoundation.org
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the race starting at noon
Where: Avon Town Hall Park, 6570 E US Highway 36, Avon
More: The race is for people of all ages and abilities, and participants may walk the entire 5K or less. Learn more at thenathanfoundation.org