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After tragic deaths, camp seeks sense of normality

Kevin Richman, a team leader at Camp Anchor

Kevin Richman, a team leader at Camp Anchor in Lido Beach, looks up at a sign in a camp tent renamed in the honor of camp counselor Paige Malone, who died July 15, 2010, in a car crash. (July 21, 2010) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

Funerals, wakes and church services remembering the three young counselors at a Lido Beach special-needs camp who died last week in a Meadowbrook State Parkway crash dominated the previous four days.

On Wednesday, leaders at Camp Anchor sought to return a sense of normality to a community of children, young counselors and parents still grieving.

Anchor director Joe Lentini huddled with hundreds of his staff to tell them "they should not feel guilty about smiling and laughing and having fun."

"We want to move away from the tragedy and try to celebrate their lives," Lentini said he told the staff.

The crash happened last Thursday morning as the five counselors who worked at the Hempstead-owned camp drove to the beachfront site to begin their day. Killed in the crash were Jamie Malone, 22, her sister, Paige Malone, 19, and Michael Mulhall, 22, all of Floral Park. Kelly Murphy and Justine Mulhall, Michael's sister and the car's driver, were injured in the crash but survived.

State Police have released no details about what they think caused the 2010 Honda Civic, just south of the Southern State Parkway, to cross to the right lane, onto the shoulder, and strike a tree. State Police didn't return multiple calls Wednesday.

At the camp Wednesday, staffer Kevin Richman, a close friend of Paige Malone's, said the campers helped ease his heartbreak. "I lost it multiple times today," Richman said. "But the thing is, being with these kids - there's no better remedy in the world than to be sitting with one of these kids and having them make you smile or make you laugh."

Sean McGowan, 12, a camper, was apprehensive about returning Wednesday - especially since he was so close to Paige Malone, said his mom Debbie McGowan of Valley Stream.

"I asked him, 'What do you think Paige would want for you? Would she want you to stay home or go to camp?,' " she said to her son, who has Down syndrome. "And he knew that she would want him to come to camp."

After dismissal Wednesday, Sean consoled his mom, whose eyes welled with tears as she recalled Paige Malone's memory.

"Don't cry, mom," the boy told her in a tent at the camp.

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