To the Editor,

Seven months ago my 11-year-old son, Michael, was hit by a car as he was walking home from school. It was a Friday and he and his friend, Daniel, were excited for the weekend and the school dance that night. He was a happy, innocent sixth grade boy just walking on the sidewalk when, in an instant, his life was changed forever.

From the moment Michael was struck he has been surrounded by the very best of humanity. We have seen first hand the amazing grace, compassion, generosity and love that people have to offer. I am now finally able to sit down and try to put my gratitude for this into words. While no words on paper or letters on a computer screen could begin to capture what I feel in my heart, I will try to convey it to each and every person who has touched us.

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First and foremost I have to thank my parents, who left their home for three months to help care for my family while Michael was in the hospital. My remarkable mother did everything required to help run my household for me when I couldn’t be there. Our parents, along with my sister, brothers, and sisters-in-law, are the true definition of unconditional love and support.

I thank my angels from heaven, Dr. Al Ritter and his beautiful (inside and out) wife, Janis Joseph. Dr. Ritter is an emergency room doctor at Morristown Medical Center. He and Janis witnessed the accident and were immediately at Michael’s side. Dr. Ritter kept Michael calm and swiftly began administering emergency care. Michael told me he was scared until Dr. Ritter appeared. He asked Dr. Ritter, “Will you stay with me?” And he did. To me it is no coincidence that Dr. Ritter and Janis were there that day. They were sent to be there for Michael. And it wasn’t just anyone. It was an emergency room doctor. An incredible, caring, compassionate one. And his wonderful wife. I am forever grateful for them. 

I thank my friends. Life can be really messy but when you have good friends by your side there is nothing you can’t overcome. Thank you all for keeping me smiling. I especially want to thank Rosalinda Rubio-Williams for her love, dedication and unending friendship. She spent hours and hours away from her own family to see to it that mine was taken care of. My wish for everyone is that you have your very own Rosalinda!

Thank you for your prayers. I believe in the power of prayer and it was never more evident than during this time in our lives. Thank you for every text message, email, phone call, card, and Facebook post. And thank you for every hospital visit, balloon, bouquet of flowers and thoughtful gift. Each and every gesture was received with our love and gratitude. 

Thank you for helping to take care of my family while Michael and I were in the hospital. For every meal and bag of groceries delivered, dog walk, ride to school, carpool driven, playdate after school and the countless other acts of kindness, I thank you. And my mom thanks you. We couldn’t have gotten through this without you.

I am thankful for Michael’s surgeons, Dr. Evdokimow and Dr. Friedman. Through seven surgeries they spent over 50 hours in the operating room with Michael, achieving what was thought to be impossible. They took a grim prognosis and turned it into a miracle. Not only is their expertise as surgeons second to none, but they are truly wonderful and compassionate human beings who have treated us like family. Thank you both for putting Michael back together and giving him his childhood back. 

I am thankful for the staff at Goryeb Children’s Hospital at Morristown Medical Center who saved Michael’s life. We knew from the moment we arrived that Michael was in the best and most capable of hands. Thank you to each and every surgeon, doctor, nurse, resident, therapist, Child Life Specialist, teacher, technician…for taking such gentle care of my boy and my entire family. Goryeb is a truly exceptional place. I cried when it was time to leave.

I am thankful for the Chatham Borough Police Department. Thank you Chief Crosson, Lieutenant Gibbons, and Officer Colatrella for your visits to the hospital and to our home, and especially to Chief Crosson for bringing NY Giant Perry Williams to visit Michael! What a treat! We are grateful to the entire department for raising money for Michael during Movember and presenting him with a generous gift. Our community is lucky to be served by these outstanding people. 

Thank you to the staff at Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick. Your mission was to have Michael come home walking on his own two legs and he did. Thank you for your endless support of Michael and placing all your confidence in him. 

Thank you to JAG Physical Therapy in West Orange. We owe Michael’s remarkable progress to the commitment and enthusiasm of your staff. Michael loves coming to physical therapy each day; thank you for being so good to him. 

Thank you to the Chatham Emergency Squad who responded to the accident. These selfless individuals volunteer their time to help those in crisis. They were there for Michael within minutes and saw to it that he was cared for. Thank you CES for your dedication to our community.

Thank you to the people of Chatham. While we are a community best known for our excellent schools and proximity to NYC, it is our spirit as a people that is most noteworthy. Your support has been overwhelming. Chatham is a kindhearted, loving and generous place. To me this is more important than any statistic, school ranking or real estate analysis. I am only now realizing the true benefits of choosing Chatham as my home 16 years ago. One of the best decisions I ever made. Thank you Chatham. 

Thank you to the sixth grade class at Chatham Middle School. You lifted Michael up with your frequent hospital visits, milkshakes, burritos, Buffalo wings, cards, posters, videos, MD #16 sightings everywhere, Instagram posts, and your friendship. I am astounded by and grateful for your kindness. Your parents should be proud.

Thank you to Chatham United, Ironbound SC, STA, the soccer programs at Chatham High School and Columbia University, and especially Coach Eddie. Michael’s love of soccer and his desire to get back on the field have motivated him to work hard at his recovery each day. Your visits, soccer balls, jerseys, gift baskets and inspiration have convinced him that he will one day play again.  

Thank you to Next Gen USA for presenting Michael with the “Character of Champions” Award and bringing him to England. This was the trip of a lifetime that he will never forget, and a key turning point in his recovery.

Thank you to Michael Bradley of the USMNT, AON/Manchester United, Chelsea FC and Eden Hazard, the NY Red Bulls, NY Giants, NY Jets, Buffalo Bills and Indiana Pacers. Your incredible gifts kept Michael’s spirits up and his hospital room looking really cool. You have lifelong fans in our family!

Thank you to Milton Avenue School, Lafayette Avenue School and Chatham Middle School for your endless support and generosity. We are lucky to be part of the Chatham School District family.

Thank you to all the businesses that have displayed their compassion and benevolence, namely Weidlinger Associates, Qdoba of Short Hills, Madison Area YMCA, Roots Steakhouse, Urban Table, Kicks N Sticks, Boll & Branch, Cory Connor Designs, Chatham Exxon, Minisink Swim & Tennis Club, Cuozzo Studio for Hair, and countless others. Please patronize these businesses; they are made up of extraordinary people. I especially want to thank Kevin from Exxon who came to the hospital with his lovely wife to visit Michael and bring him a bag of treats.

Thank you for the Red Cross Blood Drive. Michael required seven blood transfusions within the first 72 hours of the accident to save his life. The need for donated blood is vast and real. I am grateful to everyone who donated, attended, volunteered, helped organize the event, baked, provided refreshments and made thank you cards. I thank you, Michael thanks you, and I’m certain that those who benefited from your donations thank you.

I thank God for making His presence known and reminding me how important it is to have faith.

Lastly, I am thankful for my husband, who is my rock, and my three beautiful boys, who are my inspiration for everything in life.

So to each and every individual who has touched us, thank you. You have saved us, both literally and figuratively. Each of Michael’s milestones is a reflection of you. When he took his first step, headed back to school, began kicking the soccer ball around, played his first game of Manhunt, ran on the treadmill… you were there. And when he gets back on the soccer field for the first time you will be there with him too. 

You are proof that good outweighs evil in this world and light will always overcome darkness. 

With my deepest gratitude,

Nicole DiMaggio