Andrea Giattino's family and friends say she was a kind person who loved and wanted the simple things in life. Now, a new Ronkonkoma-based nonprofit organization called The Simple Hope Foundation will seek to embody that personality trait as it tries to prevent tragedies on Long Island's roadways.
"She never wanted anything crazy out of anyone around her. She was the most easygoing person. She only ever wanted simple stuff," said Justin Quaranta, Giattino's boyfriend, who survived that killed both Giattino, of Stony Brook, and a Ronkonkoma man.
Giattino and Quaranta were on their way back from a "Salute to the Armed Forces" performance by the Long Island Philharmonic at Heckscher Park when the accident occurred.
According to Quaranta, now the president of The Simple Hope Foundation, impaired driving was suspected in the crash. Because of that, he said, The Simple Hope Foundation will look for and promote ways to help people understand what defines impaired driving and how to prevent it. The organization will work with Brookhaven National Laboratory to fund addiction research, and will work with community groups to start a wider dialogue that Quaranta hopes will be effective in making the message stick.
"It’s information overload," he said. "There’s articles every week. ... People hear a million numbers and they just switch off."
Among those numbers, from research conducted in 2008 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Board:
- 15 percent of adults didn't understand the concept of "blood alcohol level."
- 48 percent of people believed they could have three or more drinks in a two-hour span and be at or under the legal limit.
The foundation will also connect with the families of those victims to show them how to set up memorial events and scholarships in their memory. In addition, the foundation is working with Ward Melville High School to set up a scholarship in Giattino's memory. A formal kickoff gala and fundraiser auction for the foundation is planned for April 27.
"We started this whole thing because of Andrea. ... It needed to be this big to fit her," Quaranta said. "Andrea was this tremendous force of goodness and happiness. ... To me this is something that needs to happen."
Giattino's mother, Marianne Lenzner, said she hopes the foundation "finds innovative ways to raise awareness in the community."
"I’m pleased that Andrea touched so many people," she said, "and that her memory will live on through the foundation and their charitable works."