Widow of Mass. cop who drowned in rescue attempt starts foundation to buy police flotation devices

Jennifer Familia hopes to prevent further drownings like the one that took her husband, Officer Enmanuel Familia

By Rick Sobey
Boston Herald

WORCESTER, Mass. — The widow of the late Worcester police officer who drowned while trying to save a boy is speaking out for the first time about the heartbreaking tragedy, as the family announces a foundation to help prevent drownings in the future.

"It's been a bad dream that I just want to wake up from," Jennifer Familia said in a newly released video about the loss of her husband, Enmanuel "Manny" Familia.

The father of two was 38 years old when he died in early June after attempting to rescue a 14-year-old boy in Worcester's Green Hill Pond. The boy, Troy Love, also died.

Jennifer recalls receiving a call from her husband's cousin, Alex Maracallo, who is also a Worcester police officer. Maracallo told her that she needed to immediately go to Green Hill Park because they couldn't find Manny after he went in the water to save a teenager.

She remembers grabbing her keys, running out the door, "panicking, crying."

When she arrived at the park, a police officer blocking the entrance told her to go to the hospital.

"They brought me to a room," Jennifer said of the hospital workers. "I knew right away: This is not good."

"'What am I going to tell my kids? What am I going to tell them?'" she remembered thinking. "'What am I going to tell my mother-in-law because this is going to break her.'"

Manny became a police officer because he genuinely wanted to help the community, Jennifer said.

"How am I going to live my life without this man?" she said. "That's pretty much my everyday struggle."

Now the family is starting "The Manny 267 Foundation" in honor of Manny whose badge number was 267.

The foundation's goal is to raise funds to provide rescue tubes for every police cruiser, and to provide swim lessons for kids. They'd like to eventually donate a "Manny tube" to every U.S. police department.

"When a call for an emergency comes in, we're usually the first ones on the scene and it's hard not to act," said Manny's cousin Alex. "We're trying to equip our police cruisers with these life-saving tools to help in these situations."

The videos about the Familia family and the foundation were produced by the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, as part of their #WhyWeServe series.

"We want to make sure people know who Manny was and what he faced on that day," said Mark Leahy, executive director of the association.

"I hope people remember the sacrifice he made for a young boy that he didn't know and had never met," Leahy added.

Kelli O'Hara, who runs Kelli from Boston, is creating the content for the #WhyWeServe series, saying "it's an honor and a privilege to keep Manny's memory alive."

To check out the foundation's website and to donate, visit www.267foundation.org.

(c)2021 the Boston Herald

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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