$2,200 For Maria’s Memory: Local Non-Profit Group Raising Funds To Raise Awareness About Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Friday, June 15, 2012 • 1:17am
SPARTA, NJ – On June 25, Maria Jose Crusellas would have turned 22 years old.
Instead, she succumbed to Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in February 2010, only a few days away from her wedding to Sparta resident Stefan Calvaruso.
And now her devastated fiancé has spearheaded the “$2,200 in 25 Days” Fundraising campaign.
Stefan met the Ecuadorian Maria, then 19, while she was living with her family in Sparta, and, the two fell in love.
Maria planned to return to the United States on a student visa, and, when she was unable to obtain one, Stefan instead traveled to visit her in Ecuador for five weeks.
“It was the best five weeks of my life,” he said.
The two made plans for Maria’s return, which again there were difficulties with the visa. Instead, Stefan and Maria decided to move ahead earlier with their plans to marry, and he would return to Ecuador once again for the cemeronies.
Their nuptials were planned for Valentine’s Day, 2010. Yet, they would never happen.
The two spoke on the phone on February 10. Stefan could not fly out due to a Northeast Blizzard that day, and rescheduled the flight for early the next morning.
The two ended the conversation, because she was not feeling well and decided to rest. Stefan guessed she had fallen asleep when she did not respond to his “I love you” texts.
Throughout Stefan’s journey to Ecuador, and three layovers, he made attempts to call her, and she did not pick up his calls. He tried not to worry.
When he arrived in Quito on February 12, he sought her face in the airport, and did not see her. Instead, he was escorted out of the airport by two men, to Maria’s aunt’s house.
The family was silent, and then told Stefan that Maria had died from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in her apartment.
After being completely devastated by her death, Stefan decided to start the Maria Jose Crusellas Foundation in his fiancé’s memory, in hopes to ensure that other lives could be saved.
“Maria was a kind, generous, amazing human being, and her love and our love for her will live on not only in our hearts, but in the goals of this foundation,” said Stefan.
He has made it his mission to ensure homes are equipped with Carbon Monoxide Detectors, and people are educated about the invisible, odorless, tasteless, gas.
“It’s a lot more deadly than people expect,” said Stefan.
According to statistics on the Maria Jose Crusellas Foundation website, over 500 residents in the United States die from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
In Quito, Ecuador, the same city where Maria Jose Crusellas died, the year prior in 2009, 109 deaths occurred from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
The foundation raises funds to purchase, and install Carbon Monoxide Detectors, especially for economically deprived areas.
The most current campaign, which Stefan describes as a “social media campaign”, is focused around Maria’s birthday.
“June 25 would have been Maria’s 22nd birthday,” said Stefan. “Last year our goal was $2,100 for her 21st birthday. We raised over $2,800. This year our goal is $2,200.”
“On our recent trip to Ecuador, we were able to install over 150 Carbon Monoxide Detectors,” Stefan said. “That is over 150 families that will be protected from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.”
Funds from last year’s fundraiser enabled the foundation to purchase over 300 Carbon Monoxide Detectors for an upcoming install, and 100 percent of the proceeds go towards the cause.
Each Carbon Monoxide Detector costs $20.
And the results of the campaign have worked.
In 2011 after installing Carbon Monoxide Detectors in Ecuador, two of them sensed the presence of the silent killer in homes, saving the residents of the two separate houses.
“You made a tragedy into a happy ending,” Chief of Fire and Safety, Carlos Chacas wrote Stefan from Cuenca, Ecuador.
The Maria Jose Crusellas Foundation is asking for help in reaching this year’s fundraising goal.
The first way is to click here to donate and learn more about the Maria Jose Crusellas Foundation.
The other way, Stefan has requested, is to spread the word by telling a minimum of 10 people about the foundation. Stefan has referred people to the organization’s Facebook page. Click here for more information.