Last year, tragedy struck after 16-year-old Thomas Cutinella, a former Shoreham-Wading River High School football player, suffered a fatal head injury after colliding with another player during a football game on Oct. 1. Cutinella died later that day.
To honor his memory, community members from Shoreham-Wading River gathered on Sunday at Wildwood State Park in Wading River for the first Patriot Run. The event was sponsored by the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcat Athletic Club.
John Regazzi, a physical education teacher at Wading River Elementary School, created and organized the event to honor Cutinella. Alice Steinbrecher, a second grade elementary school teacher at Miller Avenue Elementary School also helped, and said the two decided to call the event the Patriot Run to honor Cutinella’s own patriotism.
“One of [Tom’s] biggest loves was his country, besides his family,” Steinbrecher said. “He cared so much about the men and women fighting for our country.”
According to Steinbrecher, more than 300 people attend the event to either show their support or run the race. Cutinella’s former football number, 54, was also considered when they determined the length of the race. The number was included as the race was made a 2.54 mile run.
Those who wanted to participate had to register to enter the race. The fee was $20 for adults and $15 for children if residents register before or by Sept. 4. Those who registered the day of the event paid an additional $5. Although everyone who registered for the event received a ticket for the barbecue that followed the race, only those who pre-registered received a T-Shirt in support of the event.
According to a friend of Cutinella who wanted to remain unidentified, the money is going toward the Tom Cutinella Scholarship fund.
“I knew him for a while… and he just, he’s the kind of kid you’d see in the hallway and no matter who you are… he’d say hi,” the friend said. “He didn’t see social barriers. He [was] just a friend to everybody. I think that’s why the whole community was united [after his death].”
A total of $70,545 has been raised for the scholarship before the event, but it is still unclear when Regazzi will know how much money they raised at the Patriot Run. The Cutinella family didn’t speak regarding the event or the loss of their son as the media was asked to respect the family’s privacy.
Jim Madden of Wading River is a parent of a student who went to school with Cutinella. Madden says the incident reminds people that unexpected events can happen.
“He was hurt on the football field and many of us have children that participate in sports whether it’s football, lacrosse, baseball,” he said. “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare when something like that happens. It’s chilling to all the other spectators and the other parents and it’s a reminder to everyone that things like this can happen. Life really is very fragile you have to cherish every day.”
The event is one of several scheduled for this year. The Thomas Cutinella Memorial foundation is also support Cutinella in the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Tower Run in New York City on Sunday Sept. 27 and the first golf tournament fundraiser in his name on Monday Oct. 12 at the Baiting Hollow Country Club in Baiting Hollow.
The hope is that these events, including the Patriot Run, will help those Cutinella cared about while keeping his memory alive.
“He was a great kid,” Steinbrecher said. “Last fall was a big tragedy for our community so this year we wanted a chance for the community to come together in a positive way. The Cutinella family [is] asking people to go out and do acts of kindness in his honor and so this was our way of getting the community together.”
Editor’s note: This online story was updated to name the correct title for John Regazzi.