ROXBURY, NJ – The 16-year-old daughter of a Roxbury woman who died last Thanksgiving was given a Sweet 16 party on March 24 by people who know – all too well - about the pain of a death in the family.

Laura and Chris D’Amico, of Mount Arlington, lost their 10-year-old son, Christopher, in a 2015 Lake Hopatcong boating accident. When they learned that Landing resident Nicole Coleman died from a brain tumor, the D’Amicos empathized with Coleman’s family members.

“I didn’t know the family, but I know what it feels like to lose someone in a tragedy,” said Laura D’Amico. “My heart really went out to them. I couldn’t stop thinking about this family and how life is just not fair sometimes.”

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What she didn’t initially realize is that Coleman’s 16-year-old daughter, Shaday Gibson, is a Roxbury High School classmate of her daughter Vianna D’Amico. “Vianna talked about Shaday Gibson all the time,” D’Amico said.

A Trip to IHOP

The D’Amicos founded the Kindness for Christopher organization to honor their son’s memory by promoting random acts of kindness. In that light, Laura D’Amico’s decision to do something for Gibson should come as no surprise. The first step: pancakes.

“Late in December, I wanted to take the kids out for pancakes and asked Vianna to see if Shaday wanted to join us,” Laura D’Amico said. “I never met her or her family but wanted them to know that we understand what they are going through and were here for them.”

She said there were tears, and some laughter, during that breakfast. But the “main thought” D’Amico took away was about Gibson remembering how her mother had planned to give her daughter a Sweet 16 party when she beat her cancer.

“We are currently planning our own daughter’s Sweet 16,” D’Amico said. “So I know how exciting and special of a time this is, or would have been for Shaday and her family. That night, I couldn’t sleep. I never knew Nicole or met Shaday before … but felt so compelled to do something special for Shaday.”

Mom's Favorite Butterfly

The D’Amicos decided that Gibson was going to get the party. They enlisted the help of Roxbury Rotarian Steve Alford and, with help from many other people and businesses, made it happen.

“We couldn’t make it a surprise, but it was OK,” said Laura D’Amico. “I got in touch with Shaday to tell her and to talk about her wish list. She didn’t really have a theme, but she wanted shades of blue for her favorite color and she wanted blue butterflies, her mother’s favorite butterfly.”

It's meaningful that the “beautiful shades of blue Sweet 16 party,” took place on March 24. “The 24th is the day of the month our son passed away,” noted D’Amico. The 24th day of every month is “Kindness for Christopher Day.”

The party took place at Shore Hills Country Club in Landing. “This was a perfect day for kindness,” D’Amico said. “A little hope and happiness for their family, and for us - knowing we were doing something kind in memory of our son.

All the blue butterfly decorations from the party, created by Bella's Butterflies, will be donated to Merry Heart facility in Succasunna, “for residents and staff to enjoy for spring,” D’Amico said. “This will be done by Bella and her family from Bella’s Butterfiles. Their mission goes hand in hand with ours: “To spread kindness, caring and compassion!” is a member of the New Jersey Press Association and is a hyperlocal news site that serves residents, organizations and business owners of Denville, New Jersey.

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