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Southington family shocked by 7-year-old child’s death

SOUTHINGTON — Monkey hugs. They are a memory Cristin Buckley will keep in her heart for the rest of her life. The image of her 7-year-old son Benjamin Buckley running from one end of the room in their home towards her in the other and then leaping into the air, wrapping his little arms around her neck and his legs around her waist, is something she won’t forget.

“He would make monkey noises and we would rub noses,” Buckley said. “He was so light. He didn’t weigh very much, so I could swing him around.”

Monkey hugs were something Ben would give “a couple times a day” she said. Buckley noticed the house has been a lot quieter after Ben, a second-grader at Thalberg School, died on Jan. 24. He suffered a severe asthma attack about a week prior to his death that left him in a coma in the hospital.

It was a shock to Buckley, her family and the community.

“We never thought that this would ever happen,” Buckley said. “We have inhalers everywhere we go, around house and at school. We never thought this would happen.”

Terry O’Donnell, a clinical associate professor and physicians assistant program associate director for Quinnipiac University ,said every day nine people die from an asthma attack in the United States and 44,000 people suffer from attacks each day. She has seen many children have severe asthma that does get better as they get older, but there are many variables with asthma.

While asthma is “becoming a bigger problem” in America, O’Donnell it is rare that people die from an attack.

“In this day in age, if the person is appropriately treated, it’s not very common but it does happen,” she said.

Buckley said the first police officer was on the scene in a minute and started CPR. She thanked all the emergency response crews for their help with Ben.

“Because of them, they gave us five more days with him,” Buckley said. “We got to say goodbye to him.”

Buckley and her husband, Jeff Buckley, and two children, Madison, a fifth-grader at Thalberg, and Adam, Ben’s 7-year-old twin brother, spent hours across days in the hospital by Ben’s side. But that’s not how they will remember him.

Buckley recalled all the fond memories she will carry of her son. Memories of how Ben loved to play baseball on the Western Little League team, loved the Boston Red Sox, and called himself an “aspiring artist” who loved to draw and be creative. Legos were also something he loved playing with. He got lots of them for Christmas and Buckley said he would play with them for hours on end.

The Buckley family went on vacation to Disney World in Florida over the summer for the first time.

When Ben walked in Buckley said he looked like a child on one of the Disney World commercials offering vacation packages. She said he never walked anywhere; he skipped, jumped, or ran there. He learned that week that he wasn’t very fond of rollercoasters, but enjoyed the shows and other rides.

Enjoying life was something Ben did a lot of. Buckley said he was never negative and loved everyone.

“Ben just, he loved life,” Buckley said. “Everything to Benjamin was magical. Life was magical. He saw the good in everything.”

Buckley said Ben’s death has brought so many people into their life and garnered an immense amount of support.

A Facebook page called “Prayers for Ben “ was created on Jan. 21. It has since garnered more than 9,600 “likes.” People from town and all over the country have been posting on the site, sending the family their condolences.

A fundraising site for Ben on GiveFoward.com was also created by a family friend. So far 237 people have made donations totaling $15,889. That money will go towards a scholarship fund that the Buckley family plans on creating. Buckley said the money may go towards students wanting to study art in college, go back into the community, or to help with families that can’t afford inhalers.

Gina Greco of Southington who knew the family well is helping to organize a fundraiser to benefit the family. She said about a dozen friends from town are putting together a fundraiser on Feb. 8 from 6 - 10 p.m. at Back Nine Tavern in Southington. There is a $20 donation at the door and a buffet, raffles, and cash bar.

“It’s a whole bunch of great people coming together,” Greco said. “We’re all still in shock, but the thing I’m amazed about most is how many communities are coming together. It’s amazing. It’s amazing to me. People don’t even know these people.”

Buckley couldn’t express how thankful she is for the support from the community.

“It’s our job to keep him alive now and make sure everyone knows about Ben and how wonderful he truly was,” Buckley said. “My husband put it the best, ‘he was too good for this world.’”

To make raffle donations for the Feb. 8 fundraiser, contact Gina Greco at (203) 671-0593, Dawn Rose at (860) 463- 7143, or Jay Pearson at (203) 704-0397.

fduffany@record-journal.com (203) 317-2212 Twitter: @FollowingFarrah



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