Photographs of Nick Vacchio, who died last October at 24, are everywhere in his family’s Inwood home, but instead of just remembering him through pictures, brother Danny and mother Patty are leading the launching of a non-profit to reach struggling youth in the community.
Highlighting Nick’s initials “eNVy,” (embracing noble values for young people) will target young people who are struggling to handle the problems in their lives. The amount of high school dropouts, college suicides and recent college graduates trying to pay back school loans is astounding, the Vacchios said. “Kids feel helpless and Nick felt that way,” Patty said. “To them it seems like a struggle that has no end but there is a positive to this and we need to grab these kids before they give up.”
Although Nick, who graduated from Lawrence Woodmere Academy in 2006, had a great sense of humor and incredible heart, Patty and Danny said he was often misunderstood. “He was outspoken and said what everyone thought but didn’t have the courage to say,” Danny said. “It often got him into trouble and he struggled to find acceptance in life.”
According to Patty, Nick was diagnosed with a range of mental illnesses, including Attention Deficit Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, from a young age. In 2008, his final diagnosis was schizophrenia. “That was a heavy label for a mother to handle,” she said. “I’m learning about schizophrenia more now because I didn’t know about it then. Nobody can understand what it’s like to live with Nick unless you lived in this house. His intelligence proceeded his mental illness so I can’t define him by that.”
Patty and Danny, along with father, Marcello, siblings Trisha and Paulie, family friend Darlene Crisci and longtime Inwood resident Peter Sobol, hope to instill a sense of faith in young people and prepare them for the future. “I want to encourage them to set a goal and attack it,” Danny said. “Life is hard work and we’re going to impress upon them that they need to do something to get where they need to be.”
Crisci, a Queens resident, a friend of Patty’s for more than 30 years, said she felt especially close with Nick. “He was misunderstood and I related to him a lot,” she said. “I think it’s a great idea what they’re trying to do and I hope it provides some sort of pathway to reach out to young people.”
Although “eNVy” is in the planning stages, Danny and Patty have big dreams for the non-profit. Through donations and fundraisers, Danny and Patty hope the organization can establish an after school homework center as well as set up programs that focus on team sports, applying to college and topics such as leadership, drug abuse and alcoholism. “Many kids in the community go home after school and their parents aren’t home so they’re not doing their homework and that’s why they’re dropping out,” Patty said. “We want them to come to a place where they belong and are welcomed.”
Using “eNVy,” they hope to bring the Lawrence School District, Inwood Buccaneers and Five Towns Community Center together to help kids in the community. “I want the school social worker to tell me ‘this kid needs you,’ and the Community Center to say ‘this kid isn’t thriving in this environment so maybe he will with you,’” Patty said. “Someone needs to be the umbrella and the link to tie everything together to help these kids.”
When asked how Danny, who leaves for the Marine Corps on March 6, will have the time to work on “eNVy,” he said, “The Marine Corps and “eNVy” are my life right now and I’m going to do my best to balance the two,” he said. “My career is starting and there is no way I can’t go and be successful in this organization without accomplishing my own goals. I’m excited because I have a lot to look forward to and I’m leaving great support team behind.”
For more about “eNVy” visit the Nicholas “eNVy” Facebook page or go to www.envyourself.com.