AVERILL PARK, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A local community honored one of its own, who was taken too soon.
A graduate of Averill Park High School died in November 2016 in a tragic way, and now his friends are doing something to ensure he’s not forgotten.
Ryan Bielawa was killed by a drunk driver. On Friday night, his friends remembered him with the game he loved.
Not only did he love basketball, but it would help him grow close to his friend Myles Joice.
“It made us the friends that we were, are, today,” Joice said.
Joice said he remembered getting the call that Bielawa had been killed by a drink driver while away at college.
“Just a total blank,” he said. “I didn’t believe it. I still don’t believe it.”
“It was just the last thing you would have expected, and it didn’t seem real,” Victoria Woodard said.
Woodard also went to high school with Bielawa. She and Joice wanted to do something to remember him.
“We were both upset and just wanted to put our energy toward something positive,” she said.
“I just really needed to do something for my friend; to give him one last thing,” Joice said.
Friday was about remembering Bielawa for the outgoing person he was.
“Ryan was just the funniest kid ever,” Woodard said. “Any time we would go anywhere, if Ryan wasn’t there, it wasn’t a fun thing, and you didn’t want to go.”
“He was just such an outgoing kid,” Joice said. “Everyone, when you saw the kid, you just smiled.”
The five-on-five basketball tournament helped to raise money for Ryan’s Memorial Fund.
“We’ve all joined together to try and make something special tonight,” Joice said.
Hoping Bielawa’s memory will make others think twice before drinking and getting behind the wheel.
“It’s not worth it,” Woodard said. “If you call somebody, [they] will be more than happy to come and get you or wait it out or find another way home, but it’s not worth it.”
“Hopefully, something like this will never happen again because I know it tore apart a whole community,” Joice said.
Feeling Bielawa’s presence with every hoop that was made.
“I know he’s looking down right now wishing he could play with us, start hooping with us,” Joice said.
“I think he’s looking down on us and laughing and smiling, and I think he’s really here with us tonight,” Woodard said.
Organizers said the timing of the event is ideal because Averill Park’s prom is Saturday night and will act as a reminder to not drink and drive.