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Top Stories 2016: SWR community mourns tragic loss of teen

Nick Donnelly

Hundreds of Shoreham-Wading River students and community members gathered in early October for a pair of candlelight vigils to mourn the death of 14-year-old student Nick Donnelly.

He was remembered as a standout wrestler who competed on the varsity team as an eighth-grader.

“Anyone here who had the privilege of knowing Nick Donnelly is a better person for it,” Shoreham wrestling coach Joe Condon said during a vigil. “He’s had a tremendous influence on all his teammates.”

The tragic news of Nick’s death came after a community-wide search for the missing teen. Nick had left his home on the morning of Oct. 4 to go for a run and did not return. News of his disappearance spread quickly as night fell and many volunteers offered to help search.

The following morning, the teen’s body was found in a wooded area not far from his home. Suffolk County police said at the time that his death was non-criminal.

Classmates leaned on each other for support. A prayer service was held at St. Mark’s R.C. Church in Shoreham and many of the students then walked to the nearby sod farm for a candlelight ceremony. The next night, hundreds more gathered at Shoreham Beach to pay tribute to Nick once again. The teen’s priest, uncle and a nearly a dozen other students, parents, administrators and coaches spoke about what he meant to them.

“My nephew lit up the room when he walked in,” said Nick’s uncle, Donald Donnelly. “On behalf of my family, I can’t thank you enough. Your love and support has been overwhelming.”

File photo: A candlelight vigil in Shoreham to remember Nick Donnelly. (Credit: Paul Squire)