Feb. 4, 2013 By Christian Murray
The Sunnyside community is coming together to raise funds for the family of Benjamin Wheeler, one of the 20 children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December.
Ben was the son of former Sunnyside residents David and Francine Wheeler, who were active members in the community through Sunnyside Gardens Park and many other local activities. Ben’s brother Nate, now 9, played with many neighborhood children.
Sunnymoms, which is a large group of young mothers who organize play dates and events, is organizing the fundraiser, with the aim of raising thousands of dollars for the Ben Wheeler Fund. The group has already signed on sponsors, such as The Dog and the Duck, Bar 43 & Grill, Murphy’s Bar and Claret. The event has been scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 23, from 5pm to 9pm at Sunnyside Community Services at 43-31 39th Street.
“David, Francine and Nate are wonderful people, a really giving, lovely family who have been dealt the worst kind of hand … any of us could imagine,” said Roger Hitts, a friend of the family. “We will do anything to help the family.”
The Wheelers left Sunnyside when Ben was 7 months but have remained in close touch with many Sunnysiders. In fact, a large contingent of Sunnyside residents traveled to Ben’s funeral.
A host of bands will be playing music throughout the evening – with many playing a number of songs by The Beatles, Ben’s favorite band. Attendees will be provided with food and drink from local restaurants and there will be raffles and auctions.
Wristbands for food OR drink will be $15– or $25 for both. Children over the age of 6 years will be required to wear $5 wristbands, with younger children free. The wristbands will be sold at the door.
“It’s going to be a great time for the greatest of causes,” Hitts said. “We really want to lift the spirits of the Wheeler family and show how much they mean to us, and that they are still part of a larger family of friends here in Sunnyside.”