WEST ORANGE, NJ - For Karen, Mike and Meaghan McCormick, August 2, 2009, was a day that changed their lives forever. Karen and Mike's son and Meaghan's brother, Michael, was killed in a car accident on a Sunday morning at 11 a.m., one day after his 19th birthday. Michael was a passenger in a car driven by his friend, Vinnie Simone. Vinnie lost control of his car during a torrential rainstorm and they hit a Hummer head on. Both boys perished in the accident, which devastated their families, friends, and the West Orange community.
Karen McCormick spoke of the accident and said, "It was a tragedy that we couldn’t believe at first. When the scope of our loss began to sink in, our family held tightly to each other and to the hope that we would be able to get past our enormous grief and go on with our lives someday. In a sense, we needed a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I don’t remember who came up with the idea of honoring Michael’s memory with a scholarship fund, but as soon as we heard it , we knew it was what we were destined to do and it is what Michael would have wanted. The foundation took off quickly with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors all getting involved in various aspects of putting together a lasting foundation. While it was not easy, it was therapeutic to know that our son would be remembered and honored in such a noble way. Today, almost four years after Michael’s passing, we have 10 Board members, including our daughter, Meaghan McCormick."
The MTM Foundation Board of Trustees includes Mike McCormick Sr., Karen McCormick, Meaghan McCormick (Michael’s sister), Brian McCormick (Michael’s uncle), Kathleen MacKenzie (Michael’s aunt), Peter Pannucci, Barry Geltzeiler, Sayre Geltzeiler, Thomas Callahan and Jesse Bielecke . McCormick noted that "These individuals work tirelessly to make our foundation a success. Each of our Board members brings new ideas on how to raise funds for scholarships, but the most important thing that they do is choose the scholarship award recipients. Each year since Michael’s passing, we have gotten over 60 applications for the scholarships. We each have a unique and personal memory of Michael, and we all believe this helps us choose the recipients. This year we began thinking about all of the West Orange students that we have given scholarships to since the inception of our scholarship fund. The one thing that kept coming back to us is how each one of them, in some way, embodied the spirit of Michael. They, each in their own way, brought back to us some great memory of, or had some good quality of, Michael himself."
In the face of incompehensible loss, the McCormicks, along with support from family and friends, have held two fundraisers a year since Michael's death. The first fundraiser, a remembrance walk at Seton Hall Prep, where Michael graduated high school in 2008 and played football and Lacrosse, developed into the Walk for Mike and Vin. It was a casual walk/jog/run held on a Sunday in October. In June 2010, the first Michael T. McCormick, Jr. Foundation Scholarship event was held. In the first year, the foundatio provided scholarships to three recipients. At this year's event, to be held at Mayfair Farms on June 12, 14 scholarships will be awarded.
In addition to the Walk and Scholarship event, the MTM foundation held a “Dine to Donate” sponsored by McLoone’s Boathouse in January, 2013. McCloones generously donated 20 percent of each person’s bill who used the foundation's “dine to donate” coupon when they paid their bill.
Karen McCormick continued by saying, "The formation of the Michael T. McCormick, Jr. Memorial Foundation has given our family a reason to look forward. We have a higher purpose and together with our loyal and unbelievably supportive Board members, we put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into making this Foundation something that will support students well into the future. Since the inception of the Foundation we have awarded over $59,000.00 in scholarships plus given donations to West Orange organizations as well as Seton Hall Prep. An example of this is our donation to SHP for Hurricane Sandy relief victims. We gave SHP $4,000 to use in their coordinated efforts to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. In our hearts, we feel as if we have done a good job honoring Michael’s memory and keeping him close to us. We are sure he is smiling down on all of us."
The following WOHS students received scholarships in 2010:
Madeline noted after her first year at Penn State "“During my first year at Penn State, I have concentrated on academics, met new people, and joined a few clubs. I have begun learning about the business world through my various core business classes I have taken and have discovered that I want to have a Business Degree. I have also joined a business club called ALPFA and have been to events with companies such as KPMG. I joined club cheerleading's white team, a group of girls that meet once a week to have fun while learning new cheerleading skills. Being able to attend Penn State was something I had wanted for a while, and thankfully the Michael McCormick Jr. Scholarship fund has helped to make this possible.”
In 2011, the MTM Foundation awarded scholarships to WOHS students Nora Crann and and Jamie Strauss. Nora said "I am very thankful for having received the Michael T. McCormick Foundation Scholarship last year as it has helped me financially with my education. I chose to go to Southern Connecticut State University because I was recruited to play softball, and they have an outstanding academic program where I can further my education under my major of Exercise Science. I had an amazing freshman year as both a student and an athlete. My team made it to the Division II World Series in Louisville, Kentucky and it was one of the best experiences of my college career thus far.” Nora Crann, Connecticut State University.
In 2012, scholarships were awarded to WOHS students Frankie Bakirtzis, Evan Cumming, Lindsay Flores, Ariel Stanziale, Austin Vanderhoof and Connor Vanderhoof. Cumming was grateful for the scholarship monies received and used them to purchase textbooks and fix up his car to commute to Montclair State University, where he completed a successful first year in May.
This year's recipients of the MTM Foundation scholarships from WOHS will be:
- Daniel Campbell – Class of 2013
- Brandon Cowley – Class of 2013
- Mia Edelstein – Class of 2013
- Joseph Scalora – Class of 2013
- Monica Starbinski – Class of 2013
- Kylie Weigel – Class of 2013
The scholarship event will held from 6 -10 p.m. on Wednesday, June 12 at Mayfair Farms. The event is a combination fundraiser and scholarship award ceremony. There will be a door prize (32-inch Sony Bravia flatscreen), a Tricky Tray, a Silent Auction and a 50/50 raffle. he MTM Foundation Mission Statement notes "should honor the memory of Michael T. McCormick, Jr. by encouraging young people to attain higher education so that they may achieve personal growth and reach their career goals." By receiving financial relief the foundation hopes to provide the recipient with the ability to better prepare themselves for life’s many challenges. The Foundation seeks to support the recipient to realize success within their families, communities and beyond.
All are welcome to attend the event. Contact Mike and Karen McCormick at (973) 325-9171. Donations may be made by visiting the MTM Website at www.mtmjr.com, or send a check made payable to Michael T. McCormick, Jr., Memorial Foundation,12 Robertson Road, West Orange, NJ 07052.