Rios benefit raises funds and community

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Gumer Andia and Luz Rios attend a benefit for their son and brother Kennedy Rios, who died of hypothermia in January. Gumer Andia and Luz Rios attend a benefit for their son and brother Kennedy Rios, who died of hypothermia in January.  VENTNOR – A fundraiser at Ventnor Coffee Sunday, April 6 did more than raise money. It raised community spirit in the light of tragedy.

Shop owner Michael Einwechter proudly stated on his Facebook page last night that the daylong festival raised more than $4,300 for the Rios family of Ventnor, who recently buried their son and brother Kennedy Rios, 21, who went missing for nearly three months. He disappeared after leaving a poker and drinking party without his coat, hat, gloves and cell phone. His body was discovered in the melting water at the edge of the Ventnor Rowing Club on Friday, March 29.

“We are really grateful and appreciative of how Ventnor and the surrounding communities came together to help us, not only now, but when we were looking for Kennedy,” his sister Luz said.

The Squid Brothers, Inc. band entertains during a benefit for the family of Kennedy Rios held at Ventnor Coffee on April 6. The Squid Brothers, Inc. band entertains during a benefit for the family of Kennedy Rios held at Ventnor Coffee on April 6. She attended the fundraiser with her mother Gumer Andia, who emigrated here from Peru.

Finally learning her brother’s fate was traumatic, Luz Rios said. She was leaving a business trip in Las Vegas waiting to catch a plane home when she received the call that her brother’s body had been found by the coach of a high school rowing team.

“It was traumatic to hear my mother’s screams over the telephone,” she said.

Kennedy Rios was not a great student in high school, she said, but he turned it around at Atlantic Cape Community College. He was a second-semester general studies student who wanted to get into an engineering program, his sister said.

The family persevered through their months-long ordeal, thanks to the support from friends, family and people they never even met, Rios said.

“We’ve been able to stay strong because of all the support we got. It kept us going” she said.

After posting information about the benefit on his Facebook page the day after Rios’s body was discovered, Einwechter received calls from musicians offering to entertain during the event. Bands played sets starting at 10 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., businesses offered gift certificates and items for the silent auction. Musician Alex Siniari of Somers Point offered his Epiphone Dot Studio guitar and members of the fine arts community offered their paintings for the auction.

Alex Siniari of Brigantine offered his Epiphone Dot Studio guitary for the Rios auction. Alex Siniari of Brigantine offered his Epiphone Dot Studio guitary for the Rios auction.    Robert Lacourse of Somers Point placed a bid during a benefit for the family of Kennedy Rios held at Ventnor Coffee April 6. Robert Lacourse of Somers Point placed a bid during a benefit for the family of Kennedy Rios held at Ventnor Coffee April 6. Robert Lacourse of Somers Point was placing a bid on some of the items. He knew Kennedy Rios when he worked at the Ventnor WaWa several years ago.

“He was a regular customer and a nice guy. He was always smiling. I friended him on Facebook and we got close. I was in the Galloway Township WaWa on the White Horse Pike when I saw the poster with his picture on it. At first I thought he may have had cancer and they were doing a benefit, but when I read it, I saw it was much worse. I kept checking the Help Us Find Kennedy Rios Facebook page for updates, and praying,” Lacourse said.

Einwechter said nearly 1,000 people milled in and out of the coffee shop on Sunday, buying T-shirts, getting a free cup of coffee for making a donation and bidding on items, and more than $4,300 was raised.

“We are so grateful to Michael for hosting this event,” Luz Rios said.

She will use the money to pay the expenses the family incurred during his search, such as the printing of posters.

“We will also make a scholarship fund and start an educational campaign to reach out to young people to let them known they should never leave a party alone, especially if they’ve been drinking,” she said.


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