New initiative to help borough man, spread hope

Naugatuck resident Bob Veillette is pictured in April of 2006 playing piano at a benefit in concert in Waterbury. Veillette had a stroke that same day that left him with locked-in syndrome. Veillette’s family and friends have started a new initiative to help him and spread a message to take nothing for granted. –CONTRIBUTED

NAUGATUCK — “Take nothing for granted. Every day we have a choice. Choose what’s right in front of you. Choose joy. Choose faith. Choose hope.”

Those words are Naugatuck resident Bob Veillette’s personal motto and at the root of a new campaign to promote his inspiring message.

Veillette, a Naugatuck resident, suffered a brain stem stroke in 2006 after performing a benefit piano concert. The stroke left him paralyzed from the nose down, a condition known as locked-in syndrome. He is able to see, hear and think, but unable to communicate and requires around-the-clock care.

His friends and family started a 5K race about 10 years ago to raise money to help with Veillette’s medical expenses. Interest and attendance in the race waned in recent years, leading to the decision to cancel the race and take a different direction to not only help Veillette but also spread his message.

The #TakeNothing4Granted initiative was launched in March. The initiative includes a Facebook page, “Bob Veillette: TakeNothing4Granted,” to spread the message and a GoFundMe page, www.gofundme.com/BobVTN4G, to support Veillette.

“What we are doing on that (Facebook) page is using the inspiration that Bob has given everybody with this motto of his,” Veillette’s former co-worker Dave Krechevsky, who is helping run the campaign, said.

“Bob made the decision to appreciate the things he sometimes overlooked before the stroke — the simple pleasures of sharing a smile, or running, or playing music,” added Veillette’s former coworker Alison Skratt, who helped start the initiative, in a press release. “He believes that, every day, everyone has the opportunity to appreciate what’s right in front of them.”

The Facebook page features a video on what Veillette’s life was like before the stroke and how it’s been since.

Before the stroke, Veillette was a runner, jazz pianist and worked as a journalist for 40 years, eventually rising to the position of managing editor at the Republican-American.

Krechevsky hopes that the Facebook page will inspire people to take nothing in their lives for granted.

“You never know what’s going to happen in life,” Krechevsky said.

He added, “There is so much going on these days, a lot of it is negative. There really is a lot people could come together on. We really want to encourage people to post messages about not taking things for granted. Then they can share and build on it.”

The initiative also seeks to continue supporting Veillette and his family through donations.

“My dad really wanted to come home and we wanted him there, too,” Stephanie Veillette-Deluca, Veillette’s daughter, said in a press release. “We knew bringing him home, rather than putting him a nursing home, meant that insurance would no longer pay for his care, but we have been able to make it work so far with generous help from friends, family and the community.”

Others have also stepped up to help.

A pasta dinner will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. May 10 at St. Francis Parish hall to raise money for Veillette. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 5 to 12. Children under 5 years old are free. Tickets can be purchased by calling the church rectory at 203-729-4543 or at the church after the masses on May 6 and 7.

Krechevsky said the campaign is not only about helping someone, but realizing how many positive things each person has in their own life.

“We need to remember what’s important. We are just asking people to take a moment to think about the positive things in your life. If you have someone you love, tell them. Find ways to appreciate the little things that occur in life,” Krechevsky said.