By Bill Landon
Tom Cutinella remains an integral part of the Shoreham-Wading River community.
On May 15, the boys’ lacrosse team held its second annual car wash to honor its fallen friend and teammate, who died following a head-on collision with an opposing player on the football field in 2014.
The event kicked off at the Wading River School — veterans and seniors could get their car cleaned free of charge, and there was a suggested donation of $5.40 in recognition of Cutinella’s retired No. 54 jersey. All proceeds went to the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Foundation, which awards scholarships to Shoreham-Wading River and other Suffolk County seniors who meet the eligibility guidelines, which can be found at www.tom54.org.
Event organizer and Wading River resident Paul Curran, whose son Jason was a teammate of Cutinella’s, said the turnout was a testament to the respect the area has for Cutinella’s legacy, especially with so many kids pitching in to help out.
“With Thomas, veterans and seniors were two groups that were especially close to his heart — he was that way from a very young age,” Paul Curran said. “He was close to his grandmother who lived with him, which had a lot to do with it, and they’re a very close-knit family.”
Shoreham-Wading River senior Jon Constant said his teammates just want to continue to do things in their friend’s memory, and that’s what made the car wash easy to put together.
“We just wanted to help out the community, and the car wash seemed to be the right thing to do,” he said. “Keeping his memory alive is important because he was a great kid and we’ll never forget him.”
Constant said the washing started at 9 a.m., and by noon the kids had been cleaning non-stop.
“Who knows the number of cars we’ve washed, but we want to keep it hot,” he said.
Three hours into the event, Curran said that although seniors and veterans could get their car washed for free, and many came through the line, everyone wanted to contribute $5.40.
According to Curran, in addition to the scholarships given out each year, the foundation also donates to traumatic brain injury research.
Manning the rinse team was Wading River resident Brian Sheehan, a family friend whose son Chris also played with Cutinella. Brian Sheehan said the event is a great way to honor Cutinella’s memory and keep his legacy alive.
“[We do] anything to keep Thomas’ name at the top of everyone’s mind — it’s a privilege to be part of this annual event,” he said. “This is the second year and I plan to participate as long as I live in this community. It’s a great way to keep Thomas in our hearts and to raise money at the same time.”
Curran said last years’ event raised more than $2,500. This year, there was a similar turnout, which he said is a reflection of the community.
“Word of mouth is what drives this — social media and the youth leagues, and once it goes through there, you have hundreds of families,” he said.
This year, the event raised more that $2,000.
“I just think it’s a great way to show support for Tom and it’s a great way for [everyone] to come together and show their support, and we have fun doing it,” said senior Chris Rosati, another teammate of Cutinella’s. “This is definitely very important. It shows our support for him, which has a great impact on the community.”
Kevin Cutinella, Thomas’ younger brother, said that along with keeping the memory of his brother alive, the community outpour inspires his family.
“It means a lot to us that people are doing this without us telling them to do it, to keep Tom’s memory alive,” Kevin Cutinella said. “It means a lot to our family, it brings smiles to our faces and it keeps us there as a family.”