It has been two months since the car crash on the Arborway in Jamaica Plain that was described in news accounts as “horrific,” “devastating,” “horrendous,” and “gruesome.” The wreck occurred when an SUV carrying four Boston Latin Academy students crossed the center line, rolled over, and collided with an oncoming pickup truck.
The most seriously injured in the SUV was Mark Delamere, a Boston Latin Academy freshman from West Roxbury who turned 15 three weeks later. The driver of the truck, Kevin Cellucci of Dorchester, a 33-year-old father of three boys, was also critically injured.
The driver of the SUV, 18-year-old Nikolas Papadopoulos, who police say was driving up to 80 miles an hour, faces charges of negligent operation of a motor vehicle, speeding, failure to ensure that two passengers under the age of 16 were wearing seat belts, and unsafely crossing lane markings.
If there is a ray of sunshine in any of this, it is the response the Delamere family has received from family, friends, and strangers. Calls, cards and Red Sox banners, T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats have steadily arrived at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where the teen has spent the past six weeks.
“He gets stuff every day,” says his father, Mark Delamere Sr., who works for the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. The accident was Sept. 6. Young Mark left Boston Children’s Hospital on Sept. 24 and was admitted to the Shepherd Center, which specializes in the rehabilitation of people with brain and spinal cord injuries. Mark, an only child, had a brain injury and was left paralyzed from the waist down.
“You don’t leave Boston for much when it comes to medical attention, and the doctors thought this was the best place for him,” says his father, speaking from his son’s room at the Shepherd Center. The posts people leave on the Friends of Mark Delamere Facebook page — there are 1,500 friends — have boosted his son’s spirits immeasurably, he says.
His parents have scarcely left his side since the accident — “only when he’s in therapy sessions,” says Mark Sr. The boy’s mother, Sheila Mulry Delamere, a nurse, sleeps in his room every night. She grew up in West Roxbury, one of five children, and her husband, the oldest of six, grew up on the Roslindale-West Roxbury line.
‘Through this whole thing, we’ve been up and down. But one thing we’ve never felt is alone.’
They are tight families in a tight neighborhood, and people have been asking to help. Mark’s brother Stephen, an attorney who lives in Easton, has been helping out with fund-raising. “Initially, we started it because there was such an outpouring of people asking what they could do,” he says. “Mark’s parents are going to be out of work for awhile, then there are expenses that won’t be covered. Lots of therapies are not.”
Relatives have created a donation page on gofundme.com, with a goal of $250,000. They’ve planned a big fund-raiser Nov. 16 at Demetri’s Function Facility in Foxborough. “We’re having a DJ, silent auctions, raffles, food, maybe a live auction,” says Stephen Delamere, whose law practice is in Stoughton.
Mark Sr.’s other siblings, including Michael and Michelle, who live in Norwood with their families, are helping out, too, as are Sheila’s brothers and sisters. The Delamere family patriarch, 76-year-old Edward, lives in Attleboro. He has two prosthetic legs, one from an accident when he was 5, but he uses a walker and will be at the fund-raiser. His wife, Patricia, died of cancer in 1992 at the age of 51.The support has come from strangers as well as friends. “It’s been wonderful,” says Stephen. “There’s a T-shirt that says, ‘If God owned heaven and West Roxbury, He’d rent out heaven and live in West Roxbury.’ A lot of people never leave there.”Delamere and his helpers have created their own fund-raising T-shirt, “Mark Strong,” with a shamrock and the zip code for West Roxbury, 02132.
Mark Delamere was an active, athletic kid who played hockey, lacrosse, basketball, baseball, and tennis. And he’s always been a sweetheart, says his Uncle Stephen.
“Last year, my older daughter [then 8] had to write about someone she admired, or who was a hero to her,” he says. “We had no idea about it, but she wrote about her cousin Mark. He’s always been great with the little kids, and they all look up to him.”
Mark’s dad says his son’s spirits have been remarkable, despite a virus he battled recently. They watched the World Series games together, and though the teen’s short-term memory is still spotty from his head injury, it is “heading in the right direction.”
Mark Sr. says he will try to make it north for the Foxborough fund-raiser. “I don’t know what expenses we’ll have,” he says. “Someone told me wheelchairs cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000.”
His relatives want to take that worry, for now at least, away from Mark and Sheila. “As a parent, what happened to Mark is one of the worst things you can ever imagine,” says Stephen. Supporters have donated some of their prized possessions to the silent auction.
“One friend, he’s had a baseball signed by Luis Tiant since he was a kid,” says Stephen. “He donated it. Someone else has a signed Bobby Orr jersey and wanted to donate it. They’ve given us personal things that are important to them. It’s very touching.”
Already, family and friends have been working to make Mark’s bathroom handicap-accessible for when he returns home; the tentative release date is Nov. 21. Among them is a builder, a plumber, and an electrician, all donating their time.
In Atlanta, Mark Delamere Sr. is staying with a friend from Roslindale he has known since he was 15, his own son’s age. “He’s a transplant. The support from Roslindale and West Roxbury, along with our families, is overwhelming.
“Through this whole thing, we’ve been up and down,” he says. “But one thing we’ve never felt is alone.”Bella English lives in Milton. She can be reached at english