It was Christmas Eve 1999 when an unthinkable tragedy struck the Brull family of Rockville Centre - Tommy Brull, a cherished son and brother, was killed in a car accident at the age of 23.
For years after his death, Brull's family and friends discussed ways they could honor him and keep his memory alive, and in 2008, Brull's siblings founded an organization in their brother's name.
"Tommy's passion was working with children with special needs," Martin Brull, charity co-founder, said of his brother. "We made it our mission to raise funds to help people with physical, mental and emotional challenges."
On August 10, the Tommy Brull Foundation held a benefit concert titled Shine A Light Music Festival at Wantagh's where nearly 500 supporters came out to remember Brull and raise money for Camp Anchor in Lido Beach.
According to Brull, Camp Anchor is dear to his family's heart and is the primary organization their foundation contributes to.
"Camp Anchor is a very special place," he said of the year-round facility dedicated to people with special needs ages 5-60. "We all worked there for many years and some of our friends still work there."
Camp Anchor recently broke ground on Malone-Mulhall Recreation Center and the Tommy Brull Foundation was able to donate $12k to the building fund after the Shine A Light Music Festival. The multi-purpose facility will be named in honor of three camp counselors who died in a tragic car accident on July 15, 2010.
For Brull, the event meant much more, as he remembered his brother's love for music and live shows.
"This event was the most special to me - I really wasn't concerned about how much money we raised" Brull said. "Our main goal was to get together and remember Tommy with music. We used to go to a ton of shows together. I wanted to gather friends to hang and listen to music Tommy would like."
Deer Tick, a Rhode Island-based indie folk band that rose to fame after their inception in 2004, headlined the show with a two and half hour set.
"Deer Tick is a perfect example of what Tommy would love - they are honest, emotional and true to what they believe in," Brull said.
Brull described his brother as a great friend and somebody who wanted to make a difference in his individual ways - whether it be with clients at Camp Anchor or with a less than masculine tattoo.
"Tommy had a tattoo of a ladybug as a joke," Brull explained of the foundation's logo. "He said that guys could get a ladybug tattoo and he was going to make it look tough. Ladybugs have popped up in very weird places now and always when you feel like you need a sign of hope that Tommy is still around."
In three years, the foundation has raised over $100,000 for families and organizations across Long Island and hope to continue their work in years to come.
"I think Tommy would be blown away by what we are doing," Brull told Patch. "He didn't like being in the spotlight much but I think he would be happy to know that so many people care and have not forgotten about him."