Tag Archives: Sunnymoms

Sunnyside street named in honor of Sandy Hook victim

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Sandy Hook victim Benjamin Wheeler’s name will live on forever next to the No. 7 train he loved to ride and the Sunnyside street where the world got its first look at him.

Ben, 6, originally from Sunnyside, was one of the 20 children who were killed in the gunfire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. On September 7, he was honored and celebrated during a ceremony to co-name the intersection of 41st Street and Queens Boulevard “Benjamin Wheeler Place.” Ben’s older brother, Nate, unveiled the sign.

“It’s really special that we rename this street ‘Benjamin Wheeler Place’ and the No. 7 train will go back and forth, back and forth and it will be a very beautiful thing,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “They moved to Connecticut but the love they left behind still is so incredibly strong in the community.”

Family, friends and local officials gathered wearing green, Ben’s favorite color, at the corner of 41st Street, where he lived with his parents and brother. His parents, Francine and David, lived in Sunnyside until Ben was seven months old when they decided to move to Newtown.

“We are so incredibly grateful for the chance to thank our former Sunnyside neighbors whom we are very, very lucky enough to still call friends for their love and for their support in the months immediately following last December,” said David. “You quite literally have kept us standing.”

In honor of Ben’s love for The Beatles, Congressmember Joseph Crowley sang “Here Comes the Sun” to the family.

“Nothing more fitting that we can do [today], than honor Benjamin and the entire Wheeler family by naming the street on which he spent his first day and first months, so that we will always remember the valuable contribution that they have made and their love for Sunnyside,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris.

Francine was one of the founding member of Sunnymoms, a collective of local parents who share recipes, baby sitter recommendations and parenting tips. In February, Sunnymoms organized a fundraiser and concert for the Wheeler family to honor Ben’s memory and raise money for the family.

“Ben was six, he had just learned how to tie his shoes, that was his major accomplishment but frankly he hadn’t really perfected that either,” said David. “The sign will show us where we can eventually go as people. It is up to us to make our schools, our malls, our offices, our parks, our street corners safer for children everywhere.”



Sunnyside holds fundraiser for Sandy Hook victim

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

Although distance now separates them, the Sunnyside community came together last weekend to show the Wheeler family they are not alone in their tragic loss.

Through the planning of Sunnymoms, a group of local parents who get together and share tips, and other members of the Sunnyside community, around 300 people came together on Saturday, February 23 to enjoy an evening of food, music and family activities all contributing to the Wheeler Family Fundraiser and honoring the memory of Ben Wheeler, killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The Wheelers were active and loved members of the Sunnyside community who moved to Newton, Connecticut four years ago with their sons Nate and Ben. Francine Wheeler was one of the founding members of Sunnymoms.
“We just wanted to help out the best way we know how,” said family friend Roger Hitts, who helped coordinate the event. “Our hearts break for them and we weren’t going to leave it at that.”

The Sunnyside Community Center was filled with families of young and old looking to help out the Wheelers while sharing a night of food and music with friends and family. Many Sunnyside restaurants donated food while other business donated services and items for the raffle and live auction.

“We’re such a tight community here so we thought we’d come and help out,” said Diana Dumitru, 29, who attended the event with her husband and son. “I know the people that organized this event really put their heart into it.”

Live music from entertainers Richard Younger and Allison Tartalia filled the room while children danced the night away or spent time at the “Children’s Corner” where they could get their faces and nails painted.

“It’s fantastic to see the community come together,” said Gail Griffin who enjoyed the night with her son and daughter. “We’re a very tight-knit community and want to do as much as we can for them.”

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer attended the event and held the live auction where he included JetBlue tickets for two lucky guests. All monies raised will go to the Ben Wheeler Fund. It was unsure as of press time how much was collected.

Although the family was not able to attend the event Saturday night, they felt the love from their native community and were moved and thankful for their friends and the community at large.

“We are grateful and deeply moved at the generosity of our friends and former neighbors in the very special community of Sunnyside. The love for Ben and the support for our family shown by the Sunnymoms and their families and friends connects us to these important people forever,” said Francine, David and Nate Wheeler.


THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano





Sunnyside fundraiser to raise money for family of Sandy Hook victim

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

File photo

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 benwheelerfun@yahoo.com.