Within days of the tragic death of Erik Warshel, more than a dozen area restaurants, in addition to other Island businesses and community members, have donated gift certificates, products, services and financial assistance to the Warshel family.
Only two months after Erik and Koleene Warshel moved to Marco Island from Pennsylvania with their four children, Erik Warshel was killed July 10, when an SUV swerved into the Warshels’ van from the oncoming lane on U.S. 41. He was 40.
“What is positive about this sad story is the response of Marco Island to community members, in times of tragedy and need,” said Marva Sutt, of Marco Island, who is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. “Marco has always been a place that takes care of its own, like a family. It’s what makes Marco Island home, for the people who live here.
“There were individuals and business owners who had heard about this, and called, asking how they could help,” said Sutt. “They said things like, ‘How can we help our friends? Can they come in, so we can meet with them?’ ”
Koleene Warshel and her children, Daulton, 17, Darrah, 13, Ethan, 6, and Mya, 4, will continue to live on Marco Island.
Koleene Warshel’s brother, Joe Riemel, and his wife, Shelly, are moving to Marco Island to be with the family.
“It’s been unbelievable what Marco Island has done for my sister’s family,” said Riemel. “They’ve been just really great. She loves it there and wants to stay. I’d like to be there to help her. Our daughter is leaving for college in a couple of weeks and if I have work, I can do it.”
Christine Warshel posted a comment on the Naples Daily News on July 22, that read, “I’m Erik’s sister, living in NY … The residents of Marco Island have been wonderful while we start to mourn his loss. I can’t thank them enough for the support and love shown the entire family. I now know why Erik loved living there, such a wonderful community. My gratitude to everyone who has helped and continues to help during this tragic loss. Sincerely, Christine Warshel.”
Bob Aylwin, executive chef at the Islander Restaurant, credits Paige Rhodes Schmidt, of Marco Island, with coordinating assistance for the Warshels. “She came to me with the idea and asked if we would help. Of course, she had our 100 percent support,” said Aylwin. “I’m a father myself. I have three children and I can’t imagine what this family must be going through. It’s just really sad.”
Restaurants that donated to the Warshels include Gino’s Olde Marco Trattoria, the Islander Restaurant, CJ’s on the Bay, Vic’s Island Pizza, Sand Bar, Vandy’s Five Brothers Pizza, the Snook Inn, Porky’s Last Stand, Nacho Mama’s, DaVinci’s Ristorante, Joey’s Pizza & Pasta House, Paradise Seafood, Konrad’s Seafood & Grille Room, Zsa Zsa’s, Ne Ne’s Kitchen, Sunset Grill, Tara Steak & Lobsterhouse, Captain Brien’s Seafood & Raw Bar, and Rookies Bar & Grill. P & J Wave Riders, Sunsations, Video Showcase and Beach Unlimited, as well as private donors, also gave to the family.
Beach Unlimited Store Manager Malki Shabtai said, “I have worked on Marco Island for years and I know many of the families. I have watched their children grow up.
“The Warshels’ story made me feel very sad. We invited the children to come to the store, we would like to give them anything they want. I understand one of the children is 17. We would like to offer this child a job, something to keep them busy and provide an income. We will do anything we can for this family.”
Sutt noted that another community-sponsored fundraiser is scheduled for Aug. 29 at the Islander Restaurant, to benefit Marco Island resident Marsha Flockerzie, who has liver cancer.
To find out more or make a donation, please call Marva Sutt at (239) 393-5001 or (239) 774-1411.