Benefit honors 3 Floral Park counselors

St. John's Justin Burrell heads toward the net St. John's Justin Burrell heads toward the net during a benefit basketball game in memory of three summer camp counselors from Floral Park who died in a car crash a year ago. (July 30, 2011) Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

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When Joe Lynch made his first shot, 2,000 fans in the stands burst into cheers and began chanting his name.

The crowd at St. John's University in Jamaica, Queens, was paying its respects to Lynch, who was trying to do the same for some lost friends.

In memory of three summer camp counselors from Floral Park who died in a car crash a year ago, Lynch and others organized a benefit basketball game that featured a handful of professional players.

Saturday's game honored Lynch's girlfriend, Paige Malone, 19; her sister, Jamie Malone, 22; and Michael Mulhall, 22. They died July 15, 2010, after their car crashed into a tree off the Meadowbrook State Parkway in Roosevelt. The driver, Justine Mulhall, now 21, swerved to avoid a car she believed had gone into her lane, police say.

The Malones, the Mulhalls and one other had been on their way to work at Camp Anchor, a recreational summer camp in Lido Beach for the mentally and physically handicapped.

"I miss everything about" Paige, said Lynch, 21, a senior studying sports management at St. John's. "She was the greatest person I ever met. That's why I am doing this for her."

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Neil Mulhall, who was at the game with his wife and twin daughters, said his son had volunteered at the camp for nine years. "I think he loved every minute of it," he said.

The Malones and the Mulhalls were invited to come out to center court, where they were greeted with flowers, signed jerseys, hugs, kisses and handshakes from the players.

"I am amazed at what Joe and his friends have done," said James Malone, Paige and Jamie's father. "I can't believe all the people who committed to come without even knowing the girls."

They included Danny Green of the San Antonio Spurs, Tyrone Nash of the University of Notre Dame and NBA D-League players Jamine Peterson and Vernon Goodridge. All have connections to the New York area. "I am here to play for fun, but also pay tribute to the lives lost," said Green, a North Babylon native.

The event, which organizers said raised nearly $50,000, began with a three-point shooting contest, followed by a dunk competition. During halftime, 20 kids from the Camp Anchor dance team performed to Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" as the crowd clapped to the beat.

"Mike, Jaime and Paige worked with these kids," said Kelly Joyce, dance team co-captain. "We wanted to put on a great performance for them."

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