UNION, NJ – A retired Union police officer battling a debilitating disease will be this year's “Taste of Union” beneficiary.   

Five years ago, Union Police Officer Dave Cuozzo came face to face with a perpetrator that nearly took his life.  That perpetrator was not a man or woman.  It did not carry a gun or drive a getaway car.  This unknown assailant mysteriously and suddenly overtook Cuozzo’s body.  Within hours of being rushed to Morristown Memorial Hospital, Cuozzo, a 25-year police veteran and father of four, found himself paralyzed and fighting for his life. 

Placed on life support, doctors worked feverishly to halt the negative progression of Cuozzo’s condition and to identify it.  Standing vigil by his side were his wife Lisa, their four children and Cuozzo’s Union Police Department family.   After weeks of isolation and tests, doctors diagnosed Cuozzo with Transverse Myelitis which causes inflammation and damage to the spinal cord. Transverse Myelitis interrupts the messages that the spinal cord sends throughout the body.  It causes pain, muscle weakness, paralysis, sensory problems and organ dysfunction or failure.  The spinal cord and nerve damage caused by Transverse Myelitis can be debilitating.

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In 2014, Cuozzo’s Police Department family rallied with his other friends to make some interim home improvements to the family home.  An elevator was installed in his garage so that he could get in and out of his home for therapy and doctor visits via his motorized wheelchair and van.  An accessible bathroom was also added to the first floor living area. His friends and co-workers painted his home and gave it a minor makeover.  The family dining room was converted to a makeshift bedroom and family TV room where Duozzo sleeps in a hospital bed and receives therapy.

Cuozzo recently had a consultation with a physician involved with stem cell research trials. Preliminary cost estimates for the treatment are about $10,000.  There are no guarantees and some risks, but Cuozzo and his family remain hopeful.

“We are appealing to the community that Dave fought to protect for 25 years to come together on his behalf,” read a social media post from the “Taste of Union” Committee.  “While we will never give up hope that Dave will walk again, we realize that we may also have to undertake some greater renovations and improvements to his home for the long term.”

The ”Taste of Union” event features dozens of local restaurants serving an extensive variety of foods, from vegan to seafood and from Mexican to Italian. 

“That we can help someone in our community who is less fortunate than we are is a gift,” said event committee chairwoman Phyllis Monguso.  “This year is special because Dave protected us for all those years and maybe we can help make his life a little better.”

The ‘A Taste of Union’ event will be held on Thursday, April 18, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus, 1034 Jeanette Avenue.

Tickets are $25 in advance; $30 at the door.  Tickets may be purchased at the Clerk’s Office (908) 851-8501 at the Municipal Building 1976 Morris Avenue or at the Senior Center (908) 851-5290, 968 Bonnel Court.  For additional Information, contact: Karen Caulfield (908)851-5472 or Phyllis Monguso (908)851-5291.