Memorial soccer game to honor former Mineola student raises $4,000 in college scholarship funds

Memorial soccer game to honor former Mineola student raises $4,000 in college scholarship funds
Current and former Mineola High School soccer players participated in the second annual Christian Melendez Memorial Soccer Game. (Photo by Robert Pelaez)

The second annual Christian Melendez Memorial Soccer Game featured over 40 current and former teammates of the late Mineola High School student and helped raise $4,000 in scholarship funds.

Melendez, a Mineola High School senior at the time, died on Dec. 24, 2018, after a car accident.  He was a passenger in the vehicle, a 2001 Mitsubishi Montero, when it left the roadway and crashed into an iron fence bordering a Nassau County sump on the corner of Willis Avenue and Center Street on Dec. 21.

Police said the SUV flipped over into the sump upon crashing through the fence. All three occupants of the vehicle were transported to area hospitals, the driver and one passenger with nonlife-threatening injuries.

Melendez was a four-year member of the school’s varsity soccer team and was named as the team’s co-captain during his final season. 
A memorial of flowers, photos and soccer balls remain where the car created a large gap in the fence, now replaced with chain link fencing.

The memorial soccer game was played on what would have been Melendez’s 20th birthday, Jan. 3. The game was played between the varsity boys’ soccer team and a group of alumni that Melendez had been teammates with.   The game ended in a 1-1 tie, and many who participated said they were honored to pay tribute to their fallen teammate.

“I think that the event could not have gone better,” Mineola Deputy Mayor and former varsity soccer coach Paul Pereira said. “The weather cooperated and the generosity of the students and community is second to none. This community continues to embrace this family and continues to keep the memory of Christian Melendez very much alive. We will continue with this event as long as we can.”

Current varsity boy’s soccer coach Al Cavalluzzo told his team before the game: “Remember what we’re all gathered here to do.  We are honoring a friend, a teammate, and a member of our collective community who is missed. Go and play your heart out for Christian.”

Typically, soccer matches are played 11 on 11, but the game featured one less player on each side to reserve a spot on the field for Melendez.  Fittingly enough, Melendez wore number 10 during his playing days at Mineola. The players on Friday wore a shirt bearing Melendez’s last name and number 10 on their jerseys, the alumni in black and students in white.

Melendez’s father, Jose, thanked everyone involved afterward.

After last year’s event, Melendez’s mother, Karen Miranda, approached Pereira and the high school staff and expressed an interest in doing more than just a memorial game.

Student-athletes went around the community and received food, gift baskets, gift certificates and other donations from local businesses and vendors.  Students, faculty and community members gathered in the auditorium for a raffle and to announce the donation amounts.

A total of $4,000 was raised for the Christian Melendez Scholarship, which is awarded to two high school seniors to help fund a part of their initial college tuition, and will be announced later in the school year.

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