Hundreds of people packed the parking lot of Kaler’s Pond Park in Center Moriches to attend a candlelight vigil in honor of an 8-year-old boy who died on Jan. 17 from hypothermia after being left in an unheated garage overnight.
The boy’s father, NYPD transit officer Michael Valva and his fiancée, Angela Pollina, have been charged with second-degree murder.
Thomas’ mother, Justyna Zubko-Valva, who did not have custody of the boy, and her two other sons, Andrew, 6, and Anthony, 10, attended the vigil.
“I just want to thank the community for coming out tonight to support my little angel,” Zubko-Valva said to the crowd through tears, her voice trembling. “I’m so grateful for the tremendous amount of support and words can’t describe how you’ve touched my heart, because I know I’m not alone. Tonight is all about Tommy – my little baby who just loved everybody … He was also a boy who stands for the truth and unfortunately lost his life.”
Many in the crowd cried or hugged one another as she spoke.
Blue ribbons placed by volunteers, including Girl Scout Troop 1659 of East Moriches, lined the area around Center Moriches community. The ribbons signified a way to celebrate Thomas’ life and promote the prevention of child abuse, said vigil organizer Florence Dixon, of Center Moriches.
Pastor Sharon Pizzo of the Center Moriches United Methodist Church delivered a prayer and led the crowd in singing “Amazing Grace.”
“He would open doors for people and compliment us,” recalled Simona Volpe, 9, who took the bus to East Moriches Elementary School with Thomas and his brother Anthony, and was among the ribbon-hanging volunteers. “We’re here to support the family.”
Numerous fundraisers and prayer services are being held for the family in the coming days.
Fundraisers and prayer services
A candlelight evening prayer service will be held tomorrow at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Center Moriches at 5 p.m. It is the time when Thomas and his siblings normally attend class there.
On Tuesday, the Center Moriches United Methodist Church will hold an “evening of prayer, healing and hope” at 6 p.m.
On Jan. 29 and 30, the Center Moriches Fire Department will be collecting gift cards and monetary donations to benefit Thomas’s immediate family. Donations will be accepted from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. in the main meeting room on the 2nd floor. Contact Maria Renzetti 631-484-4085, or by email at Mrenzetti@centermorichesfd.com, with questions.
The Daily Grind Cafe donated proceeds from sales this weekend of blue pop sorbet purchases to Thomas’ funeral fund, and Brothers Four Pizzeria and Restaurant is donating the proceeds from blue garlic knots it sells from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m on Monday to his mother and the brothers. It will also be donating $5 for every pie it sells.