Even while fundraising to cover their son’s funeral costs, Ronald and Barbara Nelson were focused more on justice for him than the burden they have been left with after he was killed in a hit-and-run on July 2.
The Brightwaters couple hosted a fundraiser at Lily Flanagan’s in Islip on Wednesday night to raise money, but also with hope that someone would either surrender or come forward with information about the hit and run in West Islip that killed their son, Jason, 26.
"Tonight is to honor my son,” said Ronald Nelson, 55. “We want to do that in a happy way, but also put the word out that the person who did this, the individual who did this, I just want him to come forward.”
He said police are still searching for the driver. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-220-TIPS.
Ronald and Barbara Nelson buried their son -- the second oldest of four children -- in Bay Shore's St. Patrick’s Cemetery on July 6 and say they need to raise about $9,000 to cover the cost of his arrangements, including to purchase a headstone for his grave.
On Wednesday, about 50 people attended the fundraiser to support the family, which had gathered donations from local businesses for auction and was selling blue rubber bracelets embossed with the words “Jason’s Life -- Never Forgotten” and CDs with some of his favorite songs.
Family members, including siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents, also wore black T-shirts bearing Jason Nelson’s picture.
Michael Bonomo, 32, of Deer Park, worked in construction with Jason Nelson and described him as an outgoing and caring person who was good at his job.
“I can’t say enough about him,” he said at the fundraiser. “This is sad, but it’s good that we can all get together and celebrate him.”
The Nelsons said they have received an outpouring of support from their community, including many donations they’ve already received which paid for the initial funeral costs.
Ronald Nelson said he and his family were shocked at the cost incurred by their son’s death, and he plans to start a nonprofit organization called “Jason’s Light,” which will give financial and moral support to families that lose children.
"Just burying our son was a burden,” he said. “We didn’t know anything about any of that, and you go from one day in the hospital to identify him and the next day you’re in a funeral home and you’re in a cloud.”
Barbara Nelson, 51, said the day of the hit and run Jason Nelson had been at the beach and stopped at his parents’ house to say hello and shower before going out again.
“And then I never saw my son again,” she said, adding that the most important thing for her is knowing what happened. “I’m begging with all my heart, please surrender. I need to know who killed my son.”