Family, friends come together to help student who lost mother, father during summer
When Bergen Community College junior Lawrence Gicaro lost his mother to bone marrow cancer in early August and his father to a brain aneurism a month later, Gicaro's cousin Amanda Ocampo and other family members stepped up to the plate to help him heal.
Ocampo, a Montclair State University junior, began a GoFundMe on Sept. 28 to help him cope with expenses after hearing her friends mention its success in helping people raise money. As of the evening of Sept. 29, Ocampo's GoFundMe page raised $3,000 out of the total goal of $30,000.
While there is no amount of money that can make up for losing loved ones, a fundraiser like this would help Gicaro handle the unexpected costs he now faces, Ocampo said.
“Not a lot of people can say they know how it feels,” she said. “He’s trying, he’s had to mature and he has, not because he (wanted) to. Everything that’s happened has tested him, but he’s trying to get better.”
He was studying accounting and business as a full-time student, but took the fall semester off, although he plans on going back to school — Ocampo said finishing his education is one of his top priorities.
Gicaro said he will go back to Bergen Community College in the spring to finish his prerequisite classes for accounting, then transfer into Rutgers Business School, Montclair State University or William Paterson University to finish his bachelor’s degree.
“I’ve been trying to keep a positive outlook and I’ve been doing my best because I know my mom or dad wouldn’t want to see me upset,” he said. “I am grieving in the healthiest way possible I can.”
Despite Gicaro's bright take on the situation, he still has to foot bills from lawyers and the funeral home.
Gicaro does not currently have a job, so even small donations are helpful, Ocampo said.
“Our parents are (normally) always paying for everything,” Ocampo said. “Hopefully (this fundraiser) will help him go back to school.”
Gicaro said he hoped to begin working at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, New Jersey within the next few months.
But for now, Gicaro has the support of his extended family, a large number of whom lives in the New Jersey area, Ocampo said.
Having a support system like that helped, Gicaro said. He visits his cousins when he wanted a home-cooked meal or to spend the night somewhere.
“The rest of my family is taking it hard,” Ocampo said. “I can’t even imagine how he’s (taking it, but) we’re there if he needs someone to listen to him or hang out. We’re there to help him with anything.”
Ocampo said her cousin was a funny and artistic person who loved his parents.
He was known for cracking jokes his entire life, she said. He has been making people laugh since he was a child and continues to do so with people even if he has not spoken to them in years.
“He’s a genuine and kind person,” Ocampo said.
Gicaro said he was “astonished” at how many people had already donated.
He received messages and donations from his secondary schoolteachers and people he knew as a child, he said.
“I’m thankful for my family and friends, for all their support,” he said. “We all knew my parents, they were loving and happy people and we’re never going to forget those memories and it’s amazing that people are willing to (donate).”
He said he is also grateful for the number of people who sent him their sympathy, regardless of how much is actually raised.
According to gofundme.com, there is no deadline for a fundraiser, and the campaign host can withdraw the funds at any time during the campaign.
Ocampo said she was thankful people were banding together to help him. She appreciates those who share information about the fundraiser as much as those who are able to donate.
“We’re always there for him no matter what, and even though he lost his parents and we can’t possibly understand the way he feels we’re here,” she said. “His friends and family are always there, and judging by the donations people care.”
For more information about Lawrence Gicaro or to donate to the fundraiser, people can visit https://www.gofundme.com/helplawrencegicaro.