A proposed concrete skate park in memory of an Amherst teenager who was fatally struck riding her longboard in 2011 got a boost on Sunday, with hundreds of people turning out for a fundraiser.
Organizers of the Alix Rice Peace Park Foundation said they’re about a quarter of the way to a goal of $200,000 to make the skate park a reality.
The foundation, which is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, was working with Amherst officials on a plan to bring a 10,000-square-foot skate park to the town, although no land has been secured yet, said Jon Fulcher, foundation president.
The foundation was prepared to pay for the costs of construction and insurance on the skate park and will soon seek grant funding and reach out to corporate donors for help, said Fulcher.
The foundation wants to make sure kids will be able to use the skate park for free, he added.
Sunday’s fundraiser inside the Main-Transit Fire Station on Main Street in Amherst attracted an overflow crowd of supporters who paid $20 per person for pizza, music by Cherisse & Tim and Hotel Bravo and a crack at dozens of silent auction gifts, including signed Buffalo Sabres jerseys and other sports memorabilia.
Some of the contributors knew Rice. Many had never met the vivacious teenager, who was hit and killed while riding her longboard on Heim Road.
The car was driven by James G. Corasanti, a Getzville doctor who left the scene of the crash.
Corasanti, convicted in 2012 of misdemeanor drunken driving but acquitted of all felony charges after his lawyers successfully argued that the doctor didn’t know he had hit a person, was sentenced to a year in prison and continues to be maligned for his actions following the crash and his testimony during a highly public trial.
“It’s unfortunate. He should’ve owned up to it,” said Rachel Baudanza, who attended Williamsville North High School with Rice.
Mark Mullen, the father of three children, said Corasanti’s actions were unforgiveable.
“My opinion is probably like that of a lot of others – it was unfair and an injustice,” said Mullen, who works with Rice’s mother, Tammy Schueler.
“When you take somebody’s life, regardless of whether it’s by accident or on purpose, you should take responsibility for it,” Mullen added. “It’s unfortunate that he didn’t, but you can’t really dwell on it either.”
Nothing could make up for the loss of Rice, but Mullen said he hoped the skate park in her memory could at least “make a difference” in the lives of other young people.
Mullen, celebrating his 30th birthday on Sunday, brought his two sisters, his girlfriend and his 3-year-old daughter to the fundraiser.
“It’s nice that the community can come together after something so horrible,” he said.
The idea of an Alix Rice skate park seemed fitting to Jade Baird, who recalled Rice riding her longboard in the hallways of Williamsville North.
“She was very creative. She had a different style, which I appreciated,” said Baird, a 2010 graduate of the school. “As sad a situation as it is, it’s brought together so many people for what I think is a great cause.”
The park is needed in a community full of skateboarders, added Baudanza.
“It gives kids who are skateboarders a safe place to go, rather than a parking lot,” she said.