By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – The children were not the only ones to receive surprises at this year's annual Santa breakfast Dec. 21 at the Shrewsbury Knight of Columbus.
Special guests Jennifer Tevekelian and her sons Andrew, 11, and twins Derek and Kyle, 9, also received an early Christmas present. For the Shrewsbury family, it was a bright spot in what has been a dark past few months.
In August, the family lost husband and father Kevork “Kev” Tevekelian, who passed away after an eight-year battle with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable form of blood cancer.
At the breakfast Grand Knight John Martello and the rest of the Knights presented the family with $1,300 and a gift card, and told them that a new clothes dryer was on its way.
“We heard about the family through a former knight who had moved to California,” Martello explained. “We knew right away that we wanted to do something to help.”
The Shrewsbury Knights are known for their philanthropy and raise money for various causes, particularly special needs.
“Nobody does it better than us,” Martello said.
After hearing about the Tevekelians, the Knights voted to approve a $500 donation at one of their meetings. “We all thought it wasn's enough,” Martello explained. They “passed the hat” among those at the meeting and raised another $650.
They also met with Jennifer Tevekelian and asked her what she needed.
“As soon as she said her dryer wasn's working well, [fellow Knight John Litchfield] and I looked at each other and knew what to do.”
Litchfield contacted Home Depot about a new dryer for the family and “within 15 minutes, they called me back and asked “Gas or electric?” I was speechless,” he said. “They really stepped up.”
Tevekelian said she was overwhelmed by the unexpected outpouring of support, particularly the generosity of the Knights, who previously had no connection with the family.
She knew that they were going to help, but had no idea the extent of the donation. The money will be used to make this Christmas extra-special for the boys.
Santa was on hand at the breakfast to have photos taken with the children and hand out small gifts. He asked each of the children what they wanted for Christmas. Eleven-year-old Andrew Tevekelian made everyone laugh when he replied: “A Jacuzzi.”
While that may not happen, the Knights are hoping to help bring a little relief to a family in mourning. “You are part of our family now,” Martello told Jennifer Tevekelian and her sons after the presentation.
Martello emphasized that the gift card is to be used by Jennifer only to buy something for herself.
The support “has really helped us though the season,” a tearful Tevekelian told the gathering. “It's been a trying time. It's the first Christmas without Kev. We are amazed that there are so many people who want to help.”
It's only fitting that a community that was so enriched by Kev Tevekelian – well-known for his volunteerism and organizing neighborhood activities – is coming together to support his family.
Family friend Gina Mercuri remembered the parties “Kev Tev” threw in their Hill Farm Estates neighborhood, including an annual holiday party with 60 couples. “It was his way of getting us all together,” she said.
His legacy is continuing through the people who knew him – and even the people who didn's. “It is really touching to see that there is so much good in people,” Jennifer Tevekelian said.