We are writing today to publicly recognize the extraordinary love, compassion, and friendship our family and our family foundation, The Actus Foundation, has received from candidate for Town of North Hempstead supervisor, Jennifer DeSena.
This is not an endorsement for office, as our foundation holds a principle of remaining apolitical. It is, however, our desire to make the strongest possible endorsement of Mrs. DeSena as an extraordinarily empathetic and loving neighbor, mother, and wife.
Our foundation was formed after the death of our daughter in an incident tangentially related to the American opioid crisis. This crisis killed a record number of American youth last year (more than 150,000, or as we often say it, the equivalent of a Boeing 747 crashing each day, 7 days per week 365 times per year, with no end in sight).
Very early in the process, Mrs. DeSena reached out to us as executive director of Manhasset Coalition Against Substance Abuse (CASA) to offer us a platform to speak out and help others. We told her that Amanda did not suffer the disease of substance use disorder, and thus we didn’t know how to help her cause. We were, however, very much interested in speaking out on the new paradigm of death which arrived in the US in 2013 and asked if she would be interested in helping us with that message.
That was the beginning of a four-year personal relationship where Jennifer has frequently told Amanda’s story out of love for us and a desperate attempt to stop it from happening to others. She has found many opportunities for us to help, like the recent Project HELP Long Island’s online presentation entitled “What Every Parent Needs to Know: Marijuana and Fentanyl.” More importantly however, she never forgets us, or our beloved Amanda.
Why is she so special in this way? The word is empathy, and she has it in great abundance. Her family is the archetype of achievement and prosperity within this wonder we call American Exceptionalism. They are the kind we should all aspire to emulate. Yet, for all their success academically and socially, Jen never loses sight of the very real possibility of one of her wonderful young sons suffering the momentary lapse of reason necessary to become a victim of the opioid crisis just like Amanda.
We do this advocacy full-time and meet all kinds of people, all over this great nation. Mrs. DeSena’s ability to internalize this crisis to her family, a crisis which she could so easily defer as something which happens to other kids prospering less than her boys, tells you what you need to know about her. That level of empathy and realism, combined with her management skills and sharp intellect, will make her the kind of public servant a town would be proud to have as their own, and is well-advised to elect.
Moreover, her constant activism is yet another dimension of one of her other great personal qualities, gratitude. She is always looking to give back to the community, the country and the God who has blessed her with so much. Recently, we met her at Mass at St. Mary’s, where she came to represent the St. Vincent de Paul society, perhaps the greatest organization caring for the poor in the world. Bravo!
As an apolitical foundation, we limit our endorsement of Mrs. Jennifer DeSena to her personal attributes, but these attributes are a rare commodity and a chance we implore the voters of North Hempstead not to pass up on. It will be with great enthusiasm that our family votes for Jennifer DeSena for town supervisor on Nov. 2. We hope a great many of our neighbors will do the same.
—The Gray Family, Michael, Nancy, Declan, and Amanda (2018†)