By Jennifer L. Warren
MILLBROOK – When you meet Nate Morse, you can’t help but feel the tangible aura of positivity that surrounds him.
Maybe it’s the navy blue shirt, donning the catchy logo “domiNATE” he’s wearing? Perhaps it’s the two slogans: “Hard work, Dedication, Repeat.” “Know your worth, Unbreakable,” “Unreplaceable,” “U.R…Able” adorning the apparel and lifestyle brand of his new company? Maybe, it’s simply his electric smile and beyond his years’ witticisms centered upon life being what you make it, struggle reaping rewards, hard work paying off, and the importance of an indomitable spirit? Some of its inherent- who he is at the core; while another portion, he undeniably attributes to his second family: Angels of Light.
It’s an unbreakable bond rooted in a diving accident, built on unwavering, critical support, a relentless mission to help, and cemented by pure love. Three years ago, Nick, then 14 years old, was at a pool with a friend and decided to do an acrobatic dive he had previously nailed; unfortunately this time, he missed the landing, suffering a spinal cord injury, leaving him wheelchair bound. His mother Kristy, along with her husband and Nate’s brother, were suddenly all dealing with completely blindsided lives’ upheavals, all the while determined to be by his side, offering unconditional love and support while tirelessly commuting to hospitals and rehabilitation centers, faced with huge financial, emotional and psychological challenges. Help was direly needed, and Angels of Light was there.
“They are true angels, who just don’t stop; they have stood behind us the entire way, keeping Nate motivated,” said Kristy about the non-profit 501(c)(3) Charity that provides year-round assistance to families based in the Hudson Valley, facing a life-threatening illness or whose lives have suddenly been altered by an accident or loss of life, with funding for such vital necessities as; medical bills, food, gas, utilities and whatever they need to get by during times of crisis. “While my son was fighting for his life, they stepped in and took the burden of having to do things for the holidays off of us and allowed me to just be able to focus on both children; they are always there for us.”
It’s that very burning desire to lessen the load on parents- and the entire family- that first incited Angels of Light Co-founder, Lori Cassia-Decker to bring to life Angels of Light with her Co-founder husband, George, 20 years ago. While George was coaching a basketball game, she noticed a player on his team who had been undergoing medical treatment, and something inside her- what she refers to as “Divine Intervention”- took flight.
“As a mom myself of six children, I just kept on thinking what can I do to help, so I approached the mom, asked her for a wish list, granted it, and after that, the families just kept on coming,” recalled Cassia-Decker, Co-owner of FORZA’s Fitness in Millbrook, another community piece close to her heart. “I just couldn’t believe the need that was out there.”
The need was apparent; so too was the support. As Angels of Light grew in the scope of people it was assisting, they are now teamed up with pivotal resources: The Ronald McDonald House-where Nate’s brother and father stayed during the initial, intense phases of his rehabilitation, Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital’s Pediatric Unit, Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Ward, among others, as well as work closely with schools in 11 counties, more generosity began to flow. Since its inception, they have delivered over 7,500 gifts to 1,300 children living in the Hudson Valley.
In fact, six years ago, a man just offered Cassia-Decker “the trust” of $1,000; other donations were starting to pour in, and it’s then that she realized: It’s time to make this official. A 501(c)(3) was born and so too was a beautiful home base building in the middle of Millbrook whose doors just opened last month. Inside the new space, warm, luminous lights brighten the white walled, uplifting room, a green-hued angel with wings spread adorns the left-side wall; while over on the right wall, in a heart shape, are loving photos of some of the numerous families the organization has assisted. Cassia-Decker frequently looks deeply into the eyes of the recipients blanketing those walls and can’t help but be flooded by waves of raw emotion.
“Reaching the hearts and offering emotional strength to these families, affecting them in a positive way, is the most rewarding part of all this,” said Cassia-Decker. “It’s really all about increasing their quality of life and time together which is the most precious gift of all. Reflecting further, she added, “We just want to keep on helping as many lives as possible.”
Kristy Morse is forever grateful for that priceless present of time Angels of Life granted and continues to bless her family with each day. They are gestures that save lives on multiple levels, and they are composed of people whose impact runs deep.
“Angels of Light is family to me; they have given me a reason to still be here,” said Nate, as he lovingly interacted with Cassia-Decker’s granddaughter, placing her stuffed animals on the arms of his wheel chair as she giggled. “There are days that can be hard, and it’s not always easy, but knowing they are there for me, gets me through all of it.”
Angels of Light holds events throughout the year, raising critical funds while forging powerful bonds with Hudson Valley communities. Next up, is the Millbrook Winery 5K Run, slated to be held at the Millbrook Vineyards and Winery on Sunday, August 28, 2022. The following month, on Saturday, September 24, 2022, a Motorcycle Rally is scheduled at the Bandshell in Millbrook, followed up by a free concert. To learn more information on or how you can get involved visit: www.angelsoflighthv.org.