After five police officers were killed in Dallas and three more cops were fatally shot in Baton Rogue, La., in July 2016, members of the Wantagh High School class of 2017 decided to show their appreciation for local law enforcement by raising funds for the New York City, Nassau and Suffolk counties’ police benevolent associations’ widow and orphan funds.
Steven Benner, the senior class adviser, said that the students began their community service project over the summer after sending a letter to the Nassau PBA to express their respect for police officers. With the help of parents, students, teachers, residents, elected officials and the Wantagh Fire Department, 40 seniors hosted a car wash last July and sold more than 700 T-shirts to raise money for the PBA Widow and Orphan Fund, which was established to support families of officers killed in the line of duty.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the students,” Benner said of the fundraiser. “They all demonstrated commitment and teamwork, raising money for an excellent cause.”
The students raised $10,000 and ultimately decided to donate $4,000 to the Nassau fund and $3,000, each, to the Suffolk and NYC charities. The seniors also continued to sell T-shirts for Nassau at home football games once the academic year started.
James McDermott, Nassau’s PBA president, is a North Wantagh resident. He said he was grateful to the local students.
“This is exactly what you want to see,” he explained. “You want that relationship between the cops and the kids. You want them to believe in you.”
Senior class officers presented three checks to representatives of each PBA at the Wantagh Board of Education meeting on Jan. 19. On behalf of their classmates, they spoke about why the fundraiser was so important to them.
Sara Augusiewicz, the vice president of the class of 2017, said she couldn’t be more proud of the seniors. She noted that students in the grade worked collaboratively to make an impact.
“It takes a lot for a teenager to abandon the beach in the middle of summer and wash dirty cars,” she said. “Our classmates worked for the cause without hesitation and truly enjoyed ourselves as we drenched each other — mostly Mr. Benner — with soapy water.”