Wednesday, August 20, 2014 3:52 PM EDT
By ROBERT STORACE
NEW BRITAIN — The third annual benefit to raise money for the New Britain High School Marching Band in memory of a young man called “an outstanding human being, sensitive and compassionate” by those who knew him will be held early next month.
More than 300 people are expected to attend the Sept. 6 fundraiser in memory of Ben Cheney, a drummer for his four years at the school and a drill sergeant in the marching band in his senior year. Cheney was 21 when he was killed in a car accident in February 2012.
“I loved that kid. Both brothers [Ben and Todd Cheney] were just amazing,” said David Kayser, NBHS director of bands. “I spent several years of my teaching life with them. What happened was pretty tough for me. Everyone that knew Ben just loved him. He was an outstanding human being, sensitive and compassionate. He was everything a teacher would want in a student.”
While Kayser came on as director of bands soon after Cheney graduated in 2008, he was Cheney’s music teacher in the 4th and 5th grade. He is starting his sixth year as director of bands at NBHS and worked 13 years prior as a music teacher in several city elementary schools.
Kayser, who has known the Cheney family for many years, said of Cathy Cheney — Ben’s mother — “she is the saving grace of the band. She has been an active band parent.”
Cathy Cheney said the first two benefits raised more than $25,000, to go primarily toward restoring instruments and purchasing new ones. Dozens of instruments have been purchased through the benefits, officials said.
“These benefits mean that my son’s name is not forgotten,” said Cheney, who noted that Ben’s initials are on every drum currently used by NBHS students. “It’s [organizing the benefits] difficult, but it’s a labor of love. Ben is paying back to a lot of kids who never knew him in a way that I hope will impact the rest of their lives.”
The benefit will be held from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Sept. 6 at Trinity-on-Main.
Mayor Erin Stewart, a close family friend of the Cheney’s, said in a recent statement, “I love and miss my ‘brother’ dearly, not a day goes by since that awful night that I don’t think about him. But, knowing that other students can have the joy music brought to him with the instruments and support the benefit is able to provide, gives me and others a sense of comfort out of something so tragic.”
Tickets are $15 each and are available in advance or at the door. There will also be more than 60 raffle prizes, food and a cash bar. For more information on the tickets and the benefit, contact Cathy Cheney at (860) 558-6353.
This article originally appeared in the New Britain Herald.