Gone, but never forgotten.
Twenty years ago, Saint Agnes and Bishop Ford alum Ben Feliciano, 22, was driving on the Gowanus Expressway when a drunk driver slammed into the back of his car, causing it to flip over and land upside down. He died the following day.
It’s been a trying time for the Feliciano family since the fatal crash, on Saturday, August 19, 1995. However, they remain determined to preserve the memory of one who died far too young.
On Sunday, October 4, the family will collaborate with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) again for Walk Like MADD, a walkathon that will be held in Clove Lake Park on Staten Island for families, friends and others who have been affected by similar circumstances.
“The walks are here to remember and honor all of our loved ones impacted by drunk driving,” said Tara Spohrer, walk manager of MADD New York State. “What we do each year is highlight one family that the walk is in honor of. They share their story in a more public manner. This year, it’s the Feliciano family.”
Melissa Wylie, Ben’s sister, discussed what the emotional day means to her and the family Ben left behind, including mother Carmen, father Isaias (also known as Ben) and sister Lisa Wolf.
“It’s going to be a time where family and friends get together to remember my brother and support our family after 20 years. Even now, it still hurts talking about it,” she said. “The same day, we are having a family reunion. People from Puerto Rico are coming to this walk. Some people we’ve never met before.”
Throughout the lead-up to the event, the family has been raising money for MADD, asking anyone that can to donate, regardless of the amount. “It’s been amazing. My sister’s friend did a cake sale. She made so many cupcakes and donated over $100.”
This marks the second year that the Feliciano family is remembering Ben through the walk, as members participated in last year’s event. “It was a good experience. We got to meet other families that encountered similar situations. Having that support once again, it’s very emotional,” Wylie said. “It was pouring rain, yet we had 25 walkers in my group alone. They said that they love Benny. It meant so much to see faces we hadn’t seen for over 18 years.”
This year the family is expecting an even larger number ,as over 100 friends and family have informed them through social media and texts that they would be attending.
Wylie also discussed what her beloved brother meant to everyone he met. “He was a kind, caring and fun-loving gentleman with a huge heart. He was a bright student and talented in athletics and theater,” she said. “You might say Ben was an optimist, always looking at the bright side of a dark day. He always shared his optimistic spirit with others, lifting up those who were down and creating a positive spark of energy all around him.”
Check in for the walk starts at 9 a.m. at Clove Lake Park with the opening ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. The event includes a DJ, food, and activities for families. All ages are welcome. For more information or to donate, visit www.walklikemadd.org/team/benfeliciano.