Aug. 27, 2013 By Christian Murray
The Sunnyside community will be coming together on September 7 to co-name 41st Street and Queens Blvd after one of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
The street will be co-named Benjamin Wheeler Way, after a child who was born in Sunnyside but later moved with his family to Newtown, Conn. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer passed legislation earlier this year in order to make this happen.
Ben, aged 6 at the time, was one of 20 children who was gunned down at the local elementary last December.
Ben was the son of former Sunnyside residents David and Francine Wheeler, who were active members in the community through the Sunnyside Reformed Church, Sunnyside Gardens Park and many local activities. Ben’s older brother, Nate, played with many neighborhood children.
The family lived on the Queens Blvd at 41st Street (on the south side). It will be here where the street co-naming will take place.
Francine Wheeler was an instrumental part of the formation of Sunnymoms, which is comprised of a large group of mothers who organize play dates and events for their children.
The Wheelers left Sunnyside when Ben was very young but remained in close touch with many residents.
Hundreds of Sunnysiders took part in a tearful candlelight vigil shortly after the massacre in honor of Ben’s life. Small children, accompanied by their parents, were out in big numbers that night, carrying photos of Ben and the Wheeler family. The event was quickly organized by Van Bramer’s office at the time.
The Sunnyside community then raised more than $10,000 for the family when a fundraiser was held at the Sunnyside Community Services Center in February that was sponsored by bars and restaurants—such as The Dog and the Duck, Bar 43 & Grill, Murphy’s Bar and Claret. More than 300 people attended.
David and Francis Wheeler have spent several months since the tragedy discussing gun control issues in Washington and around the nation.
“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.
The family will be at the event.
Saturday, Sept. 7
Time: 12:00 pm
Location: Queens Blvd/41st Street (south side)
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