It's been a little over a year since a house fire in Niagara Falls, New York tragically claimed the life of 23-year-old Patrick Romano Jr., a student at Niagara University and prior to that, a 2016 graduate of Toms River High School East.

Prior to that, the lifelong Toms River resident attended Intermediate East and Cedar Grove Elementary Schools.

In the months that have followed, his family and close friends have found a way to keep his spirit and memory alive in the local community and beyond by establishing the Patrick Romano Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization.

"We give out one scholarship to his college, which is Niagara University, and then one scholarship to Toms River High School East," Michael Gibson, one of his close friends with the non-profit, tells Townsquare Media News. "We plan on, in the future, as we get more funds, to give more scholarships but to also expand. Patrick was very into helping the mentally challenged, he would go to hockey clinics and help them learn how to play hockey, he would do some volunteer work."

Gibson said they would like to work with the Brick Stars Challenger Hockey League and continue on Patrick's mission to help those players learn the game of hockey.

"We want to be able to donate equipment or ice time for them, stuff like that, just to honor him and what he was doing, but keep it alive in his name," Gibson said.

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The Patrick Romano Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund will also be holding an upcoming fundraiser event -- "The Big Red Cup" -- where they're inviting you to help celebrate Patrick and have some fun, just like he always did.

"On July 16 at Winding River (Skating Center, located in Toms River), at 12:00, we'll be having a charity hockey game with gift auction, with games, entertainment, Live music, food," Gibson said. "It's going to be our first celebration of Patrick in Toms River."

The hockey game will feature players from Toms River skating against players from Niagara University and following the game, there will be a family skate session.

"It's something to bring us together," Gibson said. "He was the one that would always have your back, no matter what, he was a good guy that you could always know that if you were in trouble, you had him coming right behind you. When I started playing hockey my junior year of high school, so I had no skills at all, he was the first one that just took time to sit there and teach me how to do this and that and he was always the first one waiting for you to get off the ice. On the ice, he was an enforcer, but off the ice, he was the nicest kid you'll ever meet."

Patrick Romano of Toms River remembered

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