Foundation seeks to remember ‘AK’

In honor of late Aaron Karol, one of the three victims of the Jan. 19, 2000, Boland Hall fire, a foundation exists called AK, standing for both Aspiring Kindness and Karol’s initials, which were his high school nickname.

Aaron’s closest high school friends from Watchung Hills Regional High School are the founders of AK which was created in January 2010.

According to, the foundation is a “not-for-profit public corporation for purposes of providing financial assistance to support and enhance the abilities of emergency responders and service providers. Additionally, we plan to support organizations dedicated to serving the memory of those who have given themselves in regards to the fire and its aftermath.”

AK’s inaugural event took place last Saturday at Beckett’s Bar & Grill in New York City. According to Mike Merizio, member of AK, over 100 people attended and more than $7,000 was raised.

“We also worked with the Karol family throughout the process to ensure we received their blessing and support,” Jason Tarantino, AK member and close friend of Aaron’s, said. “They have been incredibly supportive and gave a great speech at the inaugural event.”

Merizio said AK is currently working on some upcoming fundraiser ideas such as a Bowl-A-Thon, blood drives, golf tournaments and silent auctions. Merizio also said AK was considering a clothing drive that would collect clothing items for victims of house fires.

“Working on this foundation without a doubt helps ease the pain of missing Aaron,” Tarantino said. “Everyone deals with it in their own way but by having this charity as an outlet to channel our emotions into something great makes all our invested time and efforts 100 percent worth it.”

Merizio and Tarantino both recalled a “fond” memory of a party Aaron threw for New Year’s Eve, 1999. The party was entitled “Y2AK.”

“It was a very vivid memory as it was our first NYE party since we left for college,” Tarantino said. “Tragically, it was about three weeks before the Boland Hall fire.”

According to Merizio, Aaron had a great presence among others.

“AK was the type of person that everyone wanted to be around because he was such a great guy,” Merizio said. “I’ll always remember his laugh.

Tarantino said Aaron will always be remembered for “his personality and being a wonderful friend.”

“AK was ahead of his time and truly a one-of-a-kind guy,” Tarantino said. “He was compassionate, friendly, funny, poetic, loved to watch movies and sports and listen to music.”

According to Tarantino, the foundation is for a bigger cause than just carrying on Aaron’s legacy.

“We wanted to create something that would help leave an even stronger legacy for AK while doing good for the community,” Tarantino said. “We have an opportunity here to impact and change lives while doing so in AK’s memory.”

Kimberly Bolognini can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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