TAMPA – William Angel was a big guy. He stood 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighed 220 pounds.
His friends affectionately dubbed him “Big Brother” because of his size and his kind and compassionate spirit.
With his parents’ approval, on separate occasions he invited two of his high school classmates to move in with his family when he learned about their troubled home lives.
“The biggest part about him was his heart,” said his father, Wade Angel.
Wade delighted in the hugs William gave so freely as a sign of affection to friends, family members and the kids he cheered on prior to their surgeries at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Tampa, where his volunteer community service hours went way beyond what was required of him.
There is not a day that passes that he doesn’t mourn the July 20, 2012, loss of William, the younger of the couple’s two sons, who died at the age of 20 due to a drunken driver.
Christopher Ponce was driving the wrong way on Interstate 275 south of Interstate 4 when he struck William’s vehicle head on, killing him instantly and severely injuring two of his buddies.
Ponce has since been labeled a fugitive.
On May 9, 2013, while on house arrest and awaiting trial on charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide, he cut his ankle bracelet and fled.
William’s parents say the support they’ve received from Hillsborough County Mothers Against Drunk Driving since his death has been immense.
“Becky Gage (MADD’s victim services specialist) contacted us right away and she helped us through the legal part of it,” said Wade.
Founded in 1984, MADD’s mission is to stop drunken driving, support victims of drunken drivers and prevent underage drinking. The nonprofit organization provides victim services for free and hosts youth and parent programs on the dangers and consequences of underage drinking.
To help fund its many services, MADD will present Tampa Walk Like MADD beginning at 6 p.m. Friday on the University of South Florida campus.
With Temple Terrace Police Chief Ken Albano as honorary chair, the event will kick off with an opening ceremony followed by a noncompetitive family-friendly 5K walk.
There also will be contests with prizes, food, entertainment and activities for people of all ages.
Participants are encouraged to bring photos of loved ones who were victims of drunken driving crashes to place on a memorial wall in their honor.
“This is our seventh walk and our 30th year in Hillsborough County MADD, so it’s a big year,” said MADD co-founder Linda Unfried, who in 1984 lost her sister Josie Palomino due a drunken driver.
Lynn and Wade Angel and their team of supporters will be there in remembrance of William.
“Last year we had almost 80 walkers and we’re hoping for at least 60 this year,” Wade said. “It’s a way to honor our son and bring attention to a very severe problem.”
Tammy Rosian of Valrico and her granddaughter/adopted daughter, Summer Moll-Rosian, 9, also will be present to memorialize Jennifer O’Boyle, Tammy’s daughter and Summer’s mother, who was killed by a drunken driver on the Selmon Crosstown Expressway Sept. 10, 2008.
Summer, in turn, suffered multiple injuries and has since undergone numerous operations. She is slated to have another surgery on her brain on April 2 at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
“MADD has been a wonderful resource for me and we need the funding so we can help change the senselessness of it all,” said Rosian, who noted that on behalf of MADD she and Summer have traveled to various high schools in the Tampa Bay area to help draw attention to the perils of driving drunk.
“They see her and hear all that she’s been through and hopefully it means something to these kids,” she said.
For the past five years their team, tagged the Summer Strollers, has been the event’s top fundraiser.
“We’d be happy to welcome more walkers,” Tammy said.
Log on to www.walklikemadd.org/tampa to register. The fee is $25 for adults and $20 for youth, ages 5 – 21.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]