Grim anniversary at children's camp

Left to right: Jamie Malone, 22; Paige Malone,

Left to right: Jamie Malone, 22; Paige Malone, 19; and Michael Mulhall, 22, were killed in a crash on the Meadowbrook State Parkway. All three were camp counselors at Camp Anchor. (Credit: Handouts)

A moment of silence. A small breakfast. A wreath placed in a garden.

The memorial to three counselors killed a year ago Friday while en route to work at a camp for disabled children and adults in Lido Beach will be kept "small and light" to avoid upsetting the campers and the two survivors who still work there.

Camp Anchor, owned by the Town of Hempstead, will observe the moment of silence at 8:50 a.m. -- the time when a Honda Civic carrying the counselors from Floral Park accidentally left the Meadowbrook State Parkway roadway and crashed into a tree. The ceremonies will end just before campers begin to arrive at about 9:10 a.m.

"It's going to just be short, sweet -- we're trying to have as normal day as we can," said the camp's longtime director, Joe Lentini. "I really don't want sadness to engulf the camp on that day -- or any day."

Counselors and campers alike were grief-stricken following the crash. Staff had to explain the terrible loss to the special needs campers -- each of whom has varying degrees of comprehension about death.

"Everyone's aware. Most of the kids are aware. They haven't really been talking about it, thank goodness," Lentini said. "That would be salt in the wound."

So Friday, following the memorial, the day will be devoted to an annual carnival for the 720 campers, sponsored by county's rank-and-file police union, the Nassau Police Benevolent Association.

The July 15, 2010, crash on the Meadowbrook killed two sisters, Jamie, 22, and Paige Malone, 20, along with the driver's brother, Michael Mulhall, 22.

Investigators concluded that the driver, Justine Mulhall, now 21, had swerved to avoid a car she believed had gone into her lane, State Police have said.

That other car did not touch Mulhall's car, and neither the vehicle nor its driver were identified or located, State Police have said.

Justine Mulhall and a passenger, Kelly Murphy, now 21, were the only ones to survive.

The families of some of the car crash victims are expected to attend the brief service Friday, Lentini said.

"My biggest concern is for [the survivors'] mental health and doing whatever it takes for them to be stable and happy, and for them to be comfortable," Lentini said. "That's my biggest concern here -- for those two."

He added: "Justine and Kelly are still having a rough time. They have good days and bad days. They're much better while camp is on."

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