A group of friends has teamed up to assemble boxes of water safety equipment to honor the late Worcester police Officer Enmanuel “Manny” Familia and Troy Love, who both drowned last month in a Worcester pond.
Familia, a five-year veteran of the Worcester Police Department, drowned while trying to save 14-year-old Love after the teenager began struggling while swimming in a pond in Green Hill Park on June 4.
Now, two couples from nearby Boylston and West Boylston are setting up so-called Manny’s Boxes with life-saving equipment to try to prevent future tragedies.
Tara Caramanica, 43, of Boylston, said the group decided to create the boxes to remember Familia. They wanted the boxes to provide “a sense of security” for parents and other residents, she said.
“We just felt like this might be a kind, positive gesture that we don’t see much anymore,” she said.
The boxes are built and painted by Caramanica’s husband, Rick, and their friend, Frank Lopriore. They’re filled with life jackets and a buoy ring with 100 feet of floating rope.
Caramanica and her friend, Krista McNeil, 37, Lopriore’s fiancée, order the supplies for the boxes and contact towns to find spots for them near bodies of water.
The first box was placed near Rocky Pond in Boylston on July 19. Caramanica said she hopes to soon place more boxes at other beaches and ponds around the state.
Lopriore, 41, who was born and raised in Worcester and lives in West Boylston, said the group wanted to prevent future drownings.
“With our kids growing up here and raising a family here, you hear about all these tragedies and stuff, and I’m at a point where I was like, what can we do?” he said. “What could we do, to do something to prevent a tragedy?”
This year has seen a string of drownings in Massachusetts in addition to the Worcester tragedies. A Globe review identified 54 drownings and near-fatalities from January through early July. Last week, a 17-year-old boy drowned in the Squannacook River in Groton.
McNeil said the box project received a lot of feedback after the group posted about the first box on Facebook, so they are creating a foundation to allow them to begin accepting monetary donations.
“Ultimately our goal is to just continue to keep the word out and get as [many] donations as we can, so we can make boxes and put them in plenty of other places,” she said.
The group is accepting electronic gift cards for Amazon, Lowe’s, Target, and other stores where they can buy supplies, Caramanica said.
Lopriore said he encourages people who see a need for these boxes in their area to reach out to them or the Boylston selectmen.
McNeil said that the group wanted to make a difference for their neighbors.
“We want to get this world back to a point where we can start helping each other, because we’re so far gone from that,” she said.
Alexandra Chaidez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.