Two months after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the heart of a neighborhood remains with the family of a little boy who perished in the gunfire.
A Sunnyside group is planning a fundraiser for the bereaved family of six-year-old Benjamin Wheeler, who spent his earliest days in Sunnyside, romping through nearby parks and riding the No. 7 train. Ben’s parents, Francine and David, lived in Sunnyside until Ben was seven months old, when they moved with Ben and his older brother Nate to Newtown, Connecticut. Francine was one of the founding members of Sunnymoms, a collective of local parents who share recipes, baby sitter recommendations and parenting tips. Now, along with friends from the neighborhood, Sunnymoms is organizing an event to honor Ben’s memory and raise money for the Wheeler family.
“It didn’t take long to realize there was more we could do for that family,” said family friend Roger Hitts, who is coordinating the event.
The same group held a vigil for Ben and Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung in December at Sunnyside Gardens Park, a favorite spot of Francine’s when she lived in the neighborhood.
“[The Wheelers] were so loved in this community,” said Hitts, whose daughter was a playmate of Nate and Ben. “They were such a real wonderful family who was dealt the worst hand they could think of.”
The Saturday, February 23 event, held at the Sunnyside Community Services Center, invites local families for an afternoon of face painting, balloon sculptures and snacks. Musicians will perform songs by The Beatles, Ben’s favorite band.
Hitts said the event is to remain family-oriented, adding that “there’s not going to be people making speeches on gun control.”
If you would like to make a donation, contributions can be sent to:
The Ben Wheeler Fund
c/o Newtown Savings Band
39 Main Street
Newtown, CT 06470
Donations can also be made through PayPal, via the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
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