MADD holds annual 5k walk in Farmingdale

Walkers walk in the MADD Long Island Affiliate

Walkers walk in the MADD Long Island Affiliate of Mothers Against Drunk Driving 5K fundraising walk in Farmingdale. (June 1, 2013). (Credit: Ed Betz)

The teams -- linked by loss -- huddled before the Mothers Against Drunk Driving 5k, many of their members event veterans.

But it was the first time for Thomas and Cheryl Walsh. Nearly a year ago, their daughter Brittney was 18, freshly graduated from Copiague High School and preparing for York College in the fall, when an alleged drunken driver slammed into her car and killed her on a June night.

"It's weird," said Tom Walsh, of Lindenhurst, outside the Great Lawn on Farmingdale State College on Saturday morning. "I don't know anybody."

But they were warmly welcomed Saturday into what has become a kinship forged by tragedy. And moments later, the couple walked with the 500 who had packed the campus for the Long Island chapter's seventh annual Walk Like MADD event.

The walk is the organization's signature event, held by chapters nationwide. It provided a sedative to sadness for victims' families, who are often consumed by serious events such as vigils and lectures about the dangers of drinking and driving. MADD estimated local volunteers raised more than $100,000 for Saturday's walk.

Some teams were as large as 70, with commemorative displays varying widely, from photo collages to tattoos inked on arms and in Thomas Walsh's case, his chest.

Two widows readied for their third race. In April 2011, their husbands, Daniel Gambardella, 46, of North Babylon, and Larry Scuteri, 49, of West Islip, were killed on their way to work as carpenters in Manhattan. The women said they formed a strong bond in the past two years, comforting each other during the drunken driver's trial and, of course, the fundraising walks.

Last summer, a Brentwood man was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison for driving drunk and killing the men.

Sandra Scuteri recalled the first walk for "Dan and Larry," held mere weeks after they died. "It was very different," she said, and "very overwhelming."

Linda Gambardella said she was "numb . . . walking in a fog."

But seeing so many who had survived similar sorrow, she said, provided somewhat of a fresh start. "It was like starting a new job," Scuteri said. "It's a family, now."

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