The Michael J. Valiant Senior Foundation was started in memory of Michael J. Valiant Sr. in 1996 after his sudden passing on September 26, 1996. Known lovingly as the Big Guy to friends and family, he was a business owner and active in the Carteret community for over 35 years.
His wife, Karen, and children Gino, Michael Jr., and Cathy decided that they would honor his memory by starting this foundation to help others. By getting friends and family together in his memory, it serves as a reminder of his loving and caring nature that he firmly held in his personal and professional lives. Our first gathering was the Summer of ’97 at Cranbury Golf Club. We had 99 participants and it was 99 degrees out! Our proceeds went to the Carteret Specials and local Rotary Club to be used as needed for the services and programs they offered.
The Foundation’s mission took a dramatic turn when fate struct close to home. In 1997 Genare Jr. was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum. Dara and Gino were facing more questions than answers with autism; at the time the prevalence rate of autism was extremely low and until the movie “Rainman” hit theatres, the general public had little to no awareness of Autism. That’s when Autism New Jersey (then NJ-COSAC) stepped into their lives.
As our annual “The Great Big Guy Shootout” gained traction, we were able to generate income annually to support local endeavors. We keep our support close to home through Autism New Jersey, our primary beneficiary, along with the Carteret Specials and we look to provide support where our community needs it.
For over 20 years the Foundation has flourished in bringing together family, friends, business leaders, and community advocates to not only celebrate Mike and Karen Valiant, but also the tenants of love, service, and compassion they closely held in their lives. The Foundation has collected and donated over $350,000 to state and local organizations that focus on helping families much like those when Dara and Gino were themselves young parents hopeful for help and answers.