Claire Centrella is the mother of Melissa and the founder of Melissa's Hope
Foundation. The loss of an only child is devastating and in order for Claire to continue with her life, she had to keep Melissa's spirit alive. The foundation started small offering scholarships to students in Kinnelon where Melissa lived and Nutley, where Melissa went to school. As time passed, the scholarships were offered to students in other schools throughout New Jersey.
In 2014, Claire suggested that the organization extend its help to families with special needs children and so the addition became part of the plan. Claire worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a Senior Vice President, General Manager, consultant and several other capacities. She started the NJ Chapter for Dystonia in 1990 and played a major role in raising well over $1,000,000 for the cause. She also held the position of President of the national foundation for six years, and served on the National Organization for Rare Disorders and Student and Youth Travel Association Boards. She is retired and now devotes her time to the Melissa's Hope Foundation.
As my niece, Melissa’s well-being was always a concern of the entire family. I have always believed that next to one’s health their education is their most important asset. The Melissa Foundation gave me an opportunity to share her strength, fortitude, and magnanimity. Personally, I have been part of the educational community for several decades as a Math Teacher, Coach, Supervisor, Director of Technology, Principal and Superintendent. I remain passionate about my chosen career and continue to maintain a genuine interest in those who teach and those who are being taught. I have always believed that the greatest rewards one can receive, is gotten through giving. Over the years, it has been a pleasure for me to help provide those in need with some degree of support as they move forward through their educational endeavors.