By: Evan Wechman
One night, several years back, New Jersey businessman, Nuno Pereira suffered a tragic accident while away on a work-related trip. Nuno was exhausted after a series of meetings and wanted to take a dive in the pool before dinner. Unfortunately, he dove in, not realizing the closeness of the other side of the pool. His entire life had changed as he had instantly become a quadriplegic. His wife, Shannon Pereira also had her life altered in a moment, and was otherwise left to pick up the pieces from this tragedy.
However, Karen Casolaro and her nonprofit, “Halos for Angels” was quick to get involved and help the family. After surgery and rehab at Kessler, Nino had to go back home but was informed that he needed a special ramp in his house to facilitate his needs. With the assistance of Casolaro, the East Hanover Home Depot graciously constructed a ramp for Nino just in time for his arrival. The Home Depot was generous enough to donate all costs and labor.
There are countless stories that Casolaro can share with the community which she says is comprised of “angels,” but this is just the above is just a small sample. However, there are also many nonprofits throughout the nation and even the great state of New Jersey that do wonderful things day in and day out. However, some nonprofits fly under the radar and need to keep creating awareness about their organization in order to attract a large database of volunteers and to serve its recipients.
When first speaking with Casolaro, she had just finished going door to door in a huge corporate complex housing about 70 different businesses in Morris County. She was actively speaking to a myriad of presidents, executives, and even CEO’s about her organization’s mission which is to provide relief to the community when sudden tragedy strikes, such as the one involving Nuno. She also speaks at schools and places of worship to spread awareness and most importantly, love, throughout Northern New Jersey.
For one to fully understand how Casolaro arrived at this point in her life, one must look back at her past. In 2008, Casolaro was diagnosed with breast cancer. However, she now declares that she is happy to say she is a “survivor of breast cancer.” She talks openly about how she, a mother of five, her husband John, and her children were greeted with not only cooked meals nightly but with great compassion and love by friends and strangers as well. According to Casolaro, “all the people that helped me and my family, they are angels and I volunteer to give back to the community.”
In 2010 after her recovery, she launched Halos for Angels, Inc. to help families who were experiencing a sudden tragedy with immediate assistance, as well as after care services. Casolaro can discuss at length the multitude of people she has helped, as well as the number of service professionals such as doctors, lawyers or even chiropractors that offer their services pro bono to those in need. However, she wants people to know that this is not an ego-based mission. “It has nothing to do with me,” she says. She just wants to build a community of angels and love. Therefore, she states that “Halos for Angels represents one people, one community, one family.”
The founder emphasizes that “no one should go through a sudden tragedy without the love and support of its community angels.” She chokes up when she speaks about how her family has helped her with her work and also acknowledges her parents who helped guide her innate ability to help others.
Casolaro adds that though she has connected many people with various services, her best trait is her “ability to empathize” with others. It seems though that she has found the right touch in combining these two resourceful traits as she stares that she “likes to take action when I see a need and find the solution.”
The near future for Halos for Angels holds two things in front of them. One is a gala on June 14 at the Hanover Manor where they will be honoring their 2019 Outstanding Volunteer Angels at a “Love Is In The Air Gala.” One of the honorees is Andrew Bileci, of the Morris County Sheriff’s office who has helped the nonprofit solicit donations. The Sheriff’s department has gone so far as to operate a Hope One Truck that goes to a variety of areas throughout the county and helps the homeless and others in need. Along with the Hope One Truck, help in raising funds is being performed by Lucille Ford of East Hanover. She has taken it upon herself to give back to the community through the sale of her hats which are designed and handmade by her. For each hat that is sold, one is given back to a person in need.
Also being honored is Boiling Springs Savings Bank which helped collect funds and gifts for those less fortunate. Casolaro has become an expert in building relationships with both governmental agencies and local corporations. Another instance of this is where some local agents of Weichert realtors have donated money to Halos from each real estate transaction.
Casolaro also wanted to note that most recently her organization raised money for a local widow with burial costs for the sudden loss of her husband. This was organized by Casolaro with help from Natalee Bartlet, Superintendent of East Hanover Schools who led her team of teachers in a volleyball competition against the East Hanover Police Department. This successful event filled the entire Hanover Park High School gym. According to Casolaro, “the gym was filled with an inspiration of glowing angels that all took part in this event which brought the meaning to what a true community family is.”
However, after the gala, Casolaro will be back at work as she is looking to keep up with the demand for services. Her wish is to have a Halos for Angels headquarters which would be “a place where all can go to give back and receive; all under one roof.” She is again putting her faith in people and seeking a “guardian angel to not only underwrite all expenses that Halos incurs as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit charity, but also to help bring a halo over our entire community family with a headquarters.” As of now, Casolaro works from her home office in Florham Park.
Casolaro notes that her organization is growing in a unique way. Apparently, many people who have suffered a tragedy and were recipients of her unique and compassionate services have now, once recovered, become volunteers themselves. Casolaro says this helps build awareness and grow their expanding database and lets other organizations know that they can assist them.
For instance, the organization receives referrals for those in need from a variety of hospitals, most notable, Overlook and Morristown Hospital. She emphasizes that the personnel call them when someone suffers a tragedy and needs various stages of care as they are released back into the community. This gives the medical staff of the hospital great comfort in knowing that Halos for Angels can step in.
There are many professionals in various walks of life that believe they have a calling to do the work they perform. This could be anyone from a doctor to a senator who has known from an early age their ultimate goal. For Casolaro, her story is both unique and inspiring. She has been helping people her whole life from the time she was a child up until now. Even before she formed Halos, she volunteered with local organizations to educate others about the dangers of drugs. She boldly states and repeats time and again what she believes is her mission in life. “I really feel it is my calling to help others. We (Halos for Angels) are so very fortunate to be on this journey to helping one another when we need help the most.”