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Sachem raises funds after Joshua Mileto dies at football practice

Cheerleaders from Sachem East High School decided that proceeds from a car wash on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017, in Farmingville would would go to the family of Joshua Mileto, 16, who died during preseason football practice this month. Credit: James Carbone) (Photo Credit: Facebook

Jasmine VanSlyke, a cheerleader at Sachem High School East, ran a big blue sponge along the side of a white SUV Sunday morning outside an Applebee’s restaurant in Farmingville.

As she and about 30 other cheerleaders methodically covered a long line of cars in suds, VanSlyke thought about her friend, Joshua Mileto, a 16-year-old Sachem East football player who died tragically during a preseason practice Thursday.

The Sachem East varsity and junior varsity cheerleaders scrubbed down more than 125 cars to raise money for the Mileto family, according to coach Melissa Steigele.

“I’m glad we were able to do this,” said VanSlyke, who wore a red T-shirt with Mileto’s jersey number, 5, printed on back. “He was a really nice person; always smiling.”

The squads had planned to use the car wash to raise funds to compete in a tournament in Florida, Steigele said. But when the girls learned about Mileto, who died while taking part in a log-carrying exercise at the high school, they decided to use the money instead to help his family.

“We just wanted to help out as much as we can,” said Tara Delano, 17, a senior cheerleader. “Everyone’s been affected by this.”

On North Ocean Avenue near the parking lot, a group of cheerleaders waved signs that read: “Fly high Josh” and “Forever 5,” while others scrubbed the cars and hosed them off.

Customers tucked donations for the wash into a large jar, with most giving $20 and many giving more. Some people parked near the restaurant, dropped off a few bills and left without having their cars cleaned. Firefighters from the Holbrook and Farmingville departments also drove their engines to the car wash to leave donations.

Bob Nygard waited about 15 minutes to have his Ford Explorer cleaned and later handed $20 to one of the cheerleaders.

“It’s a tragedy what happened and it could have happened to any one of our kids,” said Nygard, 49, of Lake Grove, whose three children graduated from Sachem East. “This is just a small show of our support.”

Mileto, of Farmingville, an 11th-grader, died Thursday morning after a log fell on his head during a training drill at an offseason football camp on school grounds in Farmingville.

The teen was participating in a strength and conditioning camp at the school. Five athletes were performing a drill carrying a log overhead — with Mileto somewhere in the middle — when “the log fell and struck” him, police said.

Visitation for Mileto will be held Monday from 3 to 9 p.m. at the McManus Lorey Funeral Home at 2084 Horseblock Rd. in Medford. A funeral Mass will be held Tuesday at 9:45 a.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church at 800 Portion Rd. in Lake Ronkonkoma, with burial to follow at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, 3442 Route 112, Coram.

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