PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. – Pace University students have reached their donation goal to help schoolmate Jonel Gonzalez bury seven family members killed in tragic car accident on the Bronx River Parkway Sunday.
Following the accident, Kenni Silverio and his fraternity, Lamba Upsilon Lamba, which Gonzalez, a freshman, recently joined, launched an online campaign to help Gonzalez and his family prepare for the funerals.
“It’s something very little that we can do for a very tough and overwhelming task that he’s gonna have to do the next few days, which is bury his loved ones,” Silverio said. “We’re just trying to lift the financial part of this burden. Seven people are still gone today, and it’s just something we have to help him through.”
The online campaign quickly picked up steam, and the fraternity reached its goal of $100,000 within four days. Silverio credits the unity of the Pace University campus for the campaign's success.
“I was amazed just at the way everyone became unified so quickly,” Silverio said. “When it comes to a student on this campus, the community is always willing to do anything for them. It’s one thing I like about Pace."
Silverio, the president of Lamba Upsilon Lamba, acted as Gonzalez’s facilitator into the fraternity, which he officially joined in a ceremony on April 10.
“I met his mom that day. She really didn’t like me because she hadn’t seen him in a while,” Silverio said. “But after everything, I went back to his house and she gave me a hug, and that was the last interaction I had with her.”
Jonel's mother, Maria Gonzalez, 45, was driving the SUV that plummeted 60 feet off the parkway and into the Bronx Zoo. Also killed in the crash was his sister, Jocelyn, 10; his grandparents, Jacob Nunez, 85, and Ana Julia Martínez, 81; an aunt, Maria Nunez, 39; and two cousins, Niely, 7, and Marly, 3.
Since the accident, Pace students have also been taking donations in person and raising awareness by hanging "Para Jonel" signs throughout the campus. A video of students showing their support was posted online Wednesday.
“Every time I see [Jonel] he’s like ‘thank you, thank you,’ ” Silverio said. “But I keep telling him it’s not about thank-you. We would have done this no matter what, especially because he’s even closer to us. Our motto is, 'la unidad para siempre,' which means ‘unity forever.’ So I told him that’s it, we’re united as one forever.”