Michael and Nino DiNovo thank the crowd while standing on a bench dedicated to their brother Niko. (Jim Franco / Spotlight News)
COLONIE — Family and friends marked the one-year anniversary of Niko DiNovo’s death by dedicating a bench in one of his favorite places … Cook Park.
“He was here 24-7, or at least 23-7,” said Michael DiNovo, Niko’s older brother. “He grew up in the village, and he was the village through and through, so it’s just a great place for it to be. It’s perfect.
“I talked to him today, and I told him that even though you can’t be here physically, you will be here spiritually. We will keep his name going forever. Nobody will forget his name.”
Scores of family and friends came to Cook Park for the dedication ceremony and to share some memories and a few hugs and to send balloons into the sky with a resounding “Niko Forever.”
“Look at all these people. How can someone do what he did in 17 years, almost 18 tears, what I could not do in a lifetime. He dedicated his strength and inspiration to all these people,” said Michael DiNovo.
A plaque affixed to the bench is inscribed as follows:
“In memory of Niko David DiNovo. Come sit with me, come talk to me, come feel me. I am always here. #Nikolove.”
The idea of a bench, and the inscription, came from the DiNovo’s neighbor Tammy Signer-Holmes, who lives within sight of the bench. She brought the idea to Mayor Frank Leak, and the and the head of the village Recreation Department, Brian Casey, and they agreed to install the bench and plant some flowers.
“They played baseball here and basketball here so I thought what about a bench where they can sit and rest and talk to Niko if they want,” she said.
Leak said the village was happy to install the bench, and said he is going to kick start plans to install a monument or a statue and will ask his Village Board for permission to direct the Department of Public Works to install that too.
“There are a lot of kids in the village and we are here in the village try to support them the best we can,” Leak said.
Casey, a former Colonie police officer and Colonie High School Resource Officer said Niko DiNovo’s reminded him of himself when he was a teen.
“Niko used to push you right to the limit, and then he would back off with a smile. You couldn’t help but like the kid. I used to do the same thing when I was his age,” Casey said. “We installed the bench last year, but with the one year anniversary of his passing we thought it would be a nice time for a formal dedication.”
On March 19, 2018 the Capital Region shed a collective tear as Niko DiNovo could fight no longer.
For 508 days Niko DiNovo was at the Westchester Hopstial Burn Unit. He underwent more than two dozen surgeries as doctor’s tried to repair the damage done by third degree burns over 95 percent of his body.
He was 17.
The entire community rallied around the family and #nikostrong was commonly seen on bumper stickers and t-shirts.
“It’s been hard. Some days are good some days are bad,” said Alicia DiNovo of the past 12 months. “The community has been great. And they continue to be great. We just appreciate everyone’s support.”
The family has started the Niko DiNovo Foundation to help other families who may have a child needing long term medical care. One of its largest fundraisers is a flag football tournament that draws hundreds of players from all over the Capital District.
Niko’s friend, 19-year-old Michael Carr, was driving the vehicle on Oct. 28, 2016 when it crashed into a parked vehicle outside of Blessing’s Tavern.
The impact of the crash pushed the other vehicle into the bar on Consaul Road and caught fire. An employee and patron were taken to Albany Medical Center Hospital. The bar was destroyed, but is currently being re-built.
Carr admitted to drinking rum and coke and smoking marijuana the day of the accident. He was sentenced to six years in prison on Jan. 30, 2018.
Click on a photo below to view a slideshow of the rest.