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Young Yorktown Deaths Lead to Advocacy and Purpose

YORKTOWN, N.Y.-- Jessica D’Amato rubbed her finger over the grooves on a silver angel wing she wears around her neck while talking about the tragedy that would change her life—and the event that caused her to now help others.

“When I do these events and fundraisers, and when I started this organization—I feel like Lauren’s a part of me, like she’s inside of me, she’s the person who would do something like this,” D’Amato said.

D’Amato formed the Young Yorktown Advocates United after she saw a pattern of deaths in Yorktown, including that of her sister Lauren who passed away in a car accident over eight months ago.

“I saw a pattern of young people dying in Yorktown from all these different things, and I said t’his time I’m going to do something about it,” D’Amato said. “I have friends who have lost friends, I’ve lost friends, and I decided it was enough."

The motto of her group, “To be aware is to be alive,” sets the mission for YYAU, to raise awareness and to stop youth deaths in Yorktown. The overwhelming response D’Amato has received from the community in the form of volunteers, donations and co-sponsorships for events has told her the work she’s advocating for is certainly needed.

“People are really thankful that this exists, that this is the first time a young person has really decided enough is enough and wants to start something new to help the youth here,” she said. “We’re not ignoring the problems anymore, we’re raising awareness about them.”

On September 24, YYAU in conjunction with the Town of Yorktown and Westchester County will co-host speakers from the organization To Write Love on Her Arms. D’Amato said the outreach from people in town is important to reaffirm the fact that the issues of things like substance abuse, depression and underage drinking won’t be ignored.

The goal of the group, D’Amato said is to also keep everything peer-to-peer.

“Whenever something’s going on in life, you always want to talk to a friend—this is a place where young people can do that and talk about the importance issues in their lives,” D’Amato said. “We want to break the stigma.”

YYAU holds fundraisers, and hosts events as a way to raise awareness. They also sell jewelry in the form of silver necklaces, bracelets, earrings in the shape of angel wings which D’Amato explained are representative of “the angels of Yorktown.”

“I feel like I’m contributing—it gives my life a purpose,” D’Amato said. “This is something Lauren would have done, she was tired of seeing her friends pass away so young—so since she can’t, now I can do it for her, and in honor of her.”

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