Submitted by Julie Galvin

November is just around the corner and Hope for Bereaved is preparing for its annual Celebration of Hope dinner on Nov. 13 at the Nicholas J. Pirro Oncenter Ballroom.

For the past 37 years Hope for Bereaved has been a safe haven for those navigating the grief process. Hope offers one-on-one counseling, 12 different support groups, a telephone helpline and so much more. At Hope you can sit with those who understand. They are there to listen and offer support, to cry and laugh with. Some may have been in your shoes years ago and some may be in the midst of their grief. Either way, everyone is there to honor their loved ones and to allow hope to move in next to the heartache.

Hope for Bereaved is important to Rockette Brunetti, a retired English teacher from C.W. Baker High School. Brunetti’s brother, Tom Pirro, died in a car accident in February 1989. He was just 34 years old. Brunetti recalls the devastation. In an instant her little brother and friend was gone. She remembers feeling as though she should try to be strong for her parents. Everyone was shocked and overwhelmed. She just had to be strong for them, didn’t she?

Just days before Tommy’s accident Brunetti read an article about Hope for Bereaved. The organization came to mind and she decided to give them a call. “They were so wonderful on the phone. I knew that as the dust cleared, I had some place to go,” she said.

Brunetti says that Hope is “the club you never want to join, but it is there for you when you need it.” She loves how Hope for Bereaved offers opportunities to honor a loved one. Whether it is by donating a silent auction item for the annual dinner, purchasing a brick at the Butterfly Garden or by placing their name on the t-shirt for the annual walk/run, there are many things one can do to honor them, to keep their memory alive and share their story.

Brunetti has attended the Celebration of Hope dinner ever since she became involved. Her brother played football, so she likes to donate a sports-related basket to auction. During the holiday season, she wraps gifts at Destiny USA for Hope for Bereaved. Regardless of which event Hope is hosting, Brunetti is sure to be doing something to help.

Five weeks after Tom Pirro died, Brunetti’s phone rang. It was her sister-in-law, Linda, and she had some news: She was pregnant. At the time of Tom’s accident she was just one week pregnant so there was no way to know. Seven months later, in October of 1989, Brunetti became an aunt to a beautiful little girl. A blessing that arrived during what had been their worst year — a perfect reminder of the gifts loved ones leave behind.

Therese Schoeneck founded Hope for Bereaved in 1978 after her daughter, Mary, died in a car accident. At the time, there was not a support group available in the area for parents dealing with the death of a child. Throughout the years this independent nonprofit community organization has evolved and, as always, offers such great support at no cost to the bereaved.

“Hope is a Treasure” is the theme of the upcoming Celebration of Hope dinner. The evening includes a reception, live auction, silent auction, photo booth, magician, treasure chest and raffle. The event will be held Friday, Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. For more information call (315) 475-9675 or visit

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