Sunnyside Street to be Renamed for Newtown Shooting Victim

By Jeanmarie Evelly on August 29, 2013 8:37am 

 Francine and Benjamin Wheeler. A street will be named after Ben in Sunnyside, where the Wheeler family once lived.
Francine and Benjamin Wheeler. A street will be named after Ben in Sunnyside, where the Wheeler family once lived.
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Photo Courtesy of Sunnymoms

SUNNYSIDE — A Queens street will be renamed next week in honor of Benjamin Wheeler, one of the children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, who spent the first months of his life in Sunnyside and whose family has strong ties to the neighborhood.

Ben, who was 6 when he died, was born in Sunnyside, and his family moved to Newtown, CT, when he was still a baby.

His parents, Francine and David Wheeler, had been active members of Sunnyside Gardens Park. Francine Wheeler was a founding member of the "Sunnymoms," a networking group for neighborhood mothers.

Friends and community members held a vigil in Sunnyside for Ben and the other Newtown shooting victims in the days after the December tragedy. Sunnyside residents also sponsored a fundraiser for the Wheeler family in February.

A renaming ceremony will be held Sept. 7 at 41st Street and Queens Boulevard, according to a flier for the event posted on the Facebook page for the Ben Wheeler Fund.

The Sunnyside Post first reported the street renaming on Tuesday.

"Those of us in Sunnyside who know the Wheelers are very happy and very appreciative of this honor for the family," Roger Hitts, a Sunnyside resident and family friend, said in an e-mail.

"To have a permanent reminder of not only where their son Ben was born in Sunnyside, but to keep alive the memory of a tragedy the Wheelers are working so hard to keep from happening to another family carries a real resonance."

Francine and David Wheeler have been active in pushing for gun control reform since their son's death.

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