So, the T-SHIRTS and POSTERS for “A GIFT FROM "FATHER TOMMY" serve an added purpose:
“Fight Stigma” associated with Mental Health treatment.
I met Thomas J. Laigaie, Jr. as a teen when attending Pleasantville High School in South Jersey. “Tommy” was one of a handful of “White” kids that studied at this predominately Black School. Being the only African American at a predominately White Catholic middle school, I knew the “feeling” of being a minority - in an academic setting; this common ground “sparked” a friendship that would last until this day.
I would later discover that Tommy’s stepfather was an African American, that he had two younger “Biracial” siblings; in essence, he had a Modern Family. A loving home where I learned to “eat apple sauce with pork chops”, fix cars as his stepfather was a mechanic and dream of a better life.
Tommy sought to become a Priest. The journey would take a long and varied path as Tommy fought a disabling chronic illness, hunger, and homelessness at different points in his life. Tommy would clean up his life, pursue his ministry studies and was then ordained into the Ministry. “Father Tommy” then told me he would spend the remainder of his days, helping the sick, hungry, and homeless as “we” are treated like forgotten people.
Ten (10) days later, “Father Tommy” died of a covid-induced heart attack at the age of 55. His death touched my heart, and so, I decided to use my “gifts” to take up his charge.