From Grief to Action – New Milford Family Transforms Devastating Loss Into Caring Organization
It's the day every parent dreads, you find out one of your children have had their life cut short.
It happened to Jeffrey and Jennifer Forlastro on May 1, 2022 when they learned that their son Brandon Forlastro had passed away in a tragic motorcycle accident in New Milford.
The accident not only took Brandon's life, but critically injured his girlfriend and passenger Brianna Medina. Brandon died on his 22nd birthday but made a long-lasting impact on many people. The memorial services and vigils held for he and Brianna were very well attended.
I knew Brandon. In fact, he and I attended the same family Christmas and New Year's Eve parties together for the last few years. Brianna is my wife Erica's cousin, so Brandon and I essentially married into the same tight-knit family.
When the news about Brianna and Brandon hit the families, it hit hard. I asked my wife Erica ,what do I do about work? How do I handle this with the articles and the radio program? She said to step away from it and let's just be Brianna's family.
This is why I have not said anything about this tragic wreck until now. I couldn't locate the appropriate message. I did not want to attempt to speak about a situation so painful for Brandon's family and so scary for Brianna's. I avoid painful situations unless I think there is something I can do to help. I think this might be that moment.
How do you reconcile such a thing? How do parents climb out of such devastating grief? The Forlastros have a mission to carry out, they have started an organization called "Gears in Heaven." Recently Brandon's Dad Jeffrey wrote me about it, saying:
"Hi Lou. You knew my son Brandon Forlastro. Please help us honor his legacy and help Brianna through this horrific tragedy.. Our mission is to assist other families that will unfortunately endure the devastating loss and sorrow that we experienced. We are grateful for all the love and support we have received, there will be some out there less fortunate and we are going to fill that void."
The message was a chance to help a family that has used their grief to help others. "Gears in Heaven" is obviously brand new, but they will hold events and fundraisers for different causes in Brandon's name. I asked Jeffrey where the money they raise goes? This was his response:
"The events will go directly into the organization. We put in with the State of CT for nonprofit organization Gears in Heaven Inc and submitted with IRS for 501c3 status. We are looking at this June 25th (flier below) event to engage the community, to solidify relationship with sponsors, and to reach as many people with our message as possible."
What is there message? The Gears in Heaven website explains it as a three-pronged approach:
1 - Fundraising
Caring and support is an important part of community, and community is what motor sports is about. We hold fundraising events to celebrate the deceased and the sport they loved. We take donations from individuals, organizations, and large/small businesses and use them to support those in need. Help us connect with donors and sponsors
2 - Volunteer Service
We mobilize our team of volunteers to make a real difference. Join us and see what can be accomplished when you get an impassioned team to focus on compassion and assistance. From helping with simple household chores or errands, working through the process of closing the affairs of the deceased, to attending the final services. We are there for whatever the needs, every situation is sadly unique.
3 - Community Connections
Our community is full of people who want to help. We work directly with the families to try and alleviate the suffering. Come connect with people in new way and meaningful.
Forlastro continued to tell me about the progress he, his wife and the volunteers have made so far with Gears in Heaven, saying: