Benjamin Wheeler, a former Sunnyside resident, was just six years old when he was shot and killed at Sandy Hook elementary school. Now, his old community is trying to help his family.
Roger Hits, a community activist and friend of Francine and David Wheeler, Ben’s parents, helped organize a fundraiser. He said that the community “pulls together in tremendous ways.”
When she lived in Sunnyside, Francine was a founding member of “Sunnymoms,” a community organization with a focus toward children’s needs in the neighborhood.
Five years ago, the Wheelers picked up and move to Connecticut. While Hits said that everyone was upset to see them go, they maintained ties with the Wheelers because they were active community members. Hits even went to Connecticut for Ben’s funeral.
On February 23, from 5 to 9 p.m. at Sunnyside Community Services, 43-31 39th Street, a fundraiser for the Wheeler family will be held. Tickets for a buffet featuring local Sunnyside cuisine will cost $15.
Along with food and drink, a raffle will be held with items donated by the New York Mets, Islanders, New Jersey Devils and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“It’s typical for Sunnyside to help each other in difficult times,” Hits said, which is why he isn’t too surprised that “many restaurants contacted us.”
Following the shooting, a vigil was held in Sunnyside for Ben. Hits said when news of the shooting reached the neighborhood, many people felt powerless. He believes this will give people a way of feeling like they can make a difference in the lives of the Wheeler family.
“This event is going to be a party to honor David and Francine,” Hits said. “It will celebrate the life of their young son.”