Benefit in Portsmouth Saturday in memory of Nathan Bruno

Friends organize fund-raiser for Nathan Bruno Memorial Fund

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PORTSMOUTH — Whatever the situation, you could always count on Nathan Bruno to make you laugh, his friends say.

“He was the funniest kid ever,” said Addie Conheeny, who was a classmate of Nathan’s at Portsmouth High School. “He made every situation fun, and if you were having a bad day he always made it better.”

Nathan died suddenly at home on Feb. 7 at the age of 15, but a group of friends insist on keeping his memory alive. They’ve planned a benefit on Saturday, June 23, to raise money for the Nathan Bruno Memorial Fund. The event will run from 4-9 p.m. at Schultzy’s Snack Shack, 346 Park Ave., where Nathan once worked. 

“We’re doing a bounce house and we’re also selling bracelets with his name on it. We’ll also be raffling off stuff that’s being donated to us,” said Owen Ross, another classmate of Nathan’s. 

The event will also feature music by the deejay PB & Jam House. Although the group is still talking about what to do with the money being raised, it will be used “to remember Nathan in some way,” Owen said.

Steven Peterson, an assistant general manager at Schultzy’s, said Nathan’s family wants some of the money to support local athletic leagues, as Nathan had a special passion for sports. 

Mr. Peterson, who’s 22 and recently graduated from Salve Regina University with a degree in social work, has been working with the teenagers in planning the event.

“I think there’s 15 friends in the group that’s organizing it. Five or six work here at Schultzy’s,” he said. “They came to me and they’ve asked questions and asked for some help with things and then I said, ‘Why don’t we put this together?’ They’re been leading it and I’ve just been facilitating it; everything that’s been going on has been through them.”

There’s been an outpouring of support from the business community, and the benefit should prove to be a memorable night, Mr. Peterson said.

“Right now, we have almost 30 different donations from local businesses to raffle off,” he said. “We’re expecting maybe 500 people to come by between 4 and 9 o’clock. There will be great food and we’ll have some specialty items to kind of memorialize Nate. So, we have a specialty sundae that his family put together that was his favorite. The guys and Addie will also help put together a specialty burger that will be on the menu for the night."

Making others smile

Nathan worked at Schultzy’s two summers ago, Mr. Peterson said. “I was one of the managers that hired him, along with (owners) Deb and Curt Schultz,” he said.

He soon found out what Nathan’s friends already knew: The teenager had an natural ability to make others laugh with his dry sense of humor.

“He worked in the front,” Mr. Peterson recalled. “I just remember I’d be working in the back with one of his friends, Eric Federico, who’s part of this event as well. Eric would be like, ‘Go up there and say something to Nathan,’ and I’d go up there and say, ‘Hey Nathan,’ and he’d just give you this blank stare because that’s just like one of the faces he made. I didn’t know what to do. I’d say ‘Hi Nathan’ and he’d just look at me and not say anything — ‘What’s going on right now?’ Eric would be in the back, dying of laughter. 

“He was just infectious to be around. He had a very dry sense of humor. It just seems like every memory I’ve ever heard about him had to do with something insanely funny.”

Nathan could pick up anyone’s spirits, his friends said.

“I just remember going into first-period class,” said another classmate, Angel Duclos. “I just hated geometry so much and at the end of it he would always just walk in with a cart of computers and he’d put a smile on my face.”

“He was the nicest, kindest person,” added Owen.

Saturday’s event will not only raise money for a good cause, it will also serve as a celebration of Nathan’s tragically brief life.

“June 19 is Nathan’s birthday,” Mr. Peterson said. “That’s why (Nathan’s father, Richard Bruno) picked this date, because he thinks it will pick up the spirits of the family and friends — kind of end off that week on something happy.”

For more information about Saturday’s event, call 401/683-2663.

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