Newtown, CT, USA
Student, Sandy Hook Elementary School
12/14/2012, Newtown, CT, USA
One of the 26 innocent victims gunned down in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre will get a street named after him in Sunnyside, Queens, next week. Benjamin Wheeler, who was 6, was born in Sunnyside, and his family maintained strong ties to the community after moving to Newtown, Conn., when he was a still a baby.
Ben’s parents, Francine and David Wheeler, frequently brought their son back to Sunnyside Gardens Park to play with other neighborhood children. Benjamin Wheeler was born in
The Wheelers had been active members of the volunteer-run park before relocating, and his mother had started “Sunnymoms,” a networking group for families to arrange play dates.
The renaming ceremony is planned for Sept. 7 at the corner of 41st St. and Queens Blvd. — near the site of the Wheelers’ former home. Francine Wheeler has traveled the country advocating stricter gun control since the Dec. 14 killings.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) sponsored legislation to co-name the street “Benjamin Wheeler Place” at the request of Sunnyside residents.
“There’s a lot of love for the Wheelers in our community; they have many friends who wanted to find a way to remember Ben and talk about Ben and celebrate Ben,” Van Bramer told the Daily News.
“We were in close communication with the family to make sure this was something that would comfort them, and they assured us it would. And the family will be here Sept. 7,” he added.
Sunnyside also held a candlelight vigil for the Wheelers and Ben a week after the Dec. 14 shooting, according to the Sunnyside Post, which was the first to report the street renaming. Friends and neighbors later held a fundraiser with Van Bramer’s assistance and donated more than $10,000 to the family’s Ben Wheeler Fund. The Wheelers have traveled to Washington, D.C., and around the country since their son’s death to advocate for stricter gun control.
Ben was one of 20 children killed when gunman Adam Lanza forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School armed with assault weapons and randomly began shooting. Six staffers also died before Lanza, 20, fatally shot himself. The 6-year-old was survived by his parents and older brother, Nate, 9.
His family described him as an “irrepressibly bright and spirited boy” who loved soccer, swimming and the 7 train. “We are very honored to co-name 41st St. as Benjamin Wheeler Place. As his dad said, it was where Ben got his first look at the world and where the world got its first look at him,” said Van Bramer.