One mom turns grief into action

Marianne Angelillo spoke to a small crowd of parents in the basement of St. Ann's Church in Manlius last week. One would think she was a born public speaker.

"I've been given the gift of a sense of calmness, or a sense of composure," she said. "I didn't always have that."

On June 20, 2004, her life was forever changed. Her 17-year-old son Matthew was killed in a high-speed crash; his friend, 18-year-old Steven Corsello, at the wheel of his parents' 1997 Ferrari. A third victim in the car, 17-year-old David Prendergast, was seriously injured, and Valerie Field, a passenger in the minivan Corsello's car struck, was also injured.

Corsello was later charged with second-degree vehicular manslaughter, second-degree vehicular assault and driving while intoxicated.

The high profile case prompted a rash exchange of public opinion throughout Central New York.

"I would sit at home and so desperately want to share my pain, to wake up parents to the dangers of drugs and alcohol to the community," the Skaneateles resident said. "I felt that by becoming an advocate for teenagers and healthy choices, and to share my son's story, would create awareness, and that's what saves lives."

In 2005, Angelillo gave her first talk at the Cayuga County Drug and Alcohol group in Auburn.

"I've never been a public speaker and I certainly have never been any kind of expert on drug and alcohol abuse. I don't profess to be," she said. "I've just fallen into a situation and I'm taking advantage of people asking me to do it."

The purpose for the group meeting Oct. 1 was not only to discuss the consequences of making poor choices, but also to debut a 15-minute DVD called, "You Can't Afford to Remain Clueless" -- a project spearheaded by the not-for-profit agency, Prevention Network. The Matthew Angelillo Fund paid for its first distribution of one copy each to all middle schools and high schools in Onondaga County.

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