NEPTUNE – There was a special delivery for Abby Garaffa Thursday night.
Members of a local charity, Neptune police officers and a motorcade of Harley Davidson riders delivered the chronically ill 15-year-old a new MacBook Pro computer, valued at $3,800.
And something you can’t put a price tag on.
“Seeing everybody, I just kind of forgot about being sick,” Garaffa said. “It was a happy moment.”
The gift and parade were arranged by Dream Factory of the Jersey Shore, the local chapter of a national nonprofit that grants wishes to children ages 3-18 who are suffering from chronic or critical illness.
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“It makes me want to cry that there are nice people out there who recognize me and want to help me and support me with these kinds of battles I have to go through,” Garaffa said.
Abby suffers from gastroparesis, an often-debilitating digestive condition. Food doesn’t move properly through her digestive track, and the result can be nausea, vomiting and severe abdominal pain. She’s been dealing with this since age 7, and it’s forced her to be home-schooled much of the time. She is a sophomore at Neptune High School but hasn’t set foot in the school since October.
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Despite the uphill climb, Garaffa scored an impressive 1,450 on her PSAT and has been named Student of the Month by high school administrators.
“I feel like she has a bright future ahead of her, but her medical condition debilitates her,” mom Tara Robinson said. “Life has thrown a lot at her.”
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Dream Factory of the Jersey Shore originally intended to send Abby on a vacation to the Bahamas — she’s never been out of the country — but the coronavirus pandemic scuttled that plan. The souped-up MacBook, which comes with a video-editing app for producing YouTube clips, among other bells and whistles, will help her stay connected with friends. The grand presentation at her home in the Ocean Grove section of town was icing on the cake.
“I was not expecting the whole parade and the motorcycles,” Abby said. “It really made everything 10 times better.”
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This month marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of Dream Factory of the Jersey Shore. President Luanne Wood, a Wall resident who led Thursday’s presentation, said this is the 40th child adopted by the chapter, which encompasses Monmouth, Ocean, Middlesex and Mercer counties.
“It’s very rewarding,” Wood said. “My passion is with children, and nothing makes me happier than seeing these dreams come true. It’s a wonderful, wonderful feeling.”
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As with many charities right now, Dream Factory of the Jersey Shore is scrambling financially. Its last three scheduled fundraisers got canceled by the pandemic. Right now the all-volunteer operation is raising money online through its website https://dreamsjerseyshore.com and Facebook page www.facebook.com/DreamJerseyShore.
The fruit of their work was on display Thursday as Abby clutched her new computer and greeted well-wishers.
“I was teary-eyed because it was so overwhelming,” her mother said. “It was so nice to see a smile on her face.”
For more information about Dream Factory of the Jersey Shore, email [email protected] or call 833-373-2665.
Jerry Carino is community columnist for the Asbury Park Press, focusing on the Jersey Shore’s interesting people, inspiring stories and pressing issues. Contact him at [email protected]