Community Detail | Avecina Medical

Hundreds Gather in Oakleaf to Raise Funds for Fallen Clay County Deputy

Ben Zirbel was thrown from his department motorcycle after a truck pulling a trailer turned into his path two weeks ago. He died from his injuries a few days later.

Several businesses and community leaders are paid it forward by putting on a fundraiser, complete with bounce houses, great food and fancy car rides.

It was held at NYC Meatballs Pizzeria at Oakleaf Plantation from 8 a.m. until noon, where people enjoyed great food. Outside children enjoyed face painting, mascots and a bounce house.

Adults bid on raffle items, went for rides in some cool cars and ate smoked ribs all to honor Zirbel and help his family financially.

Dr. Saman Soleymani helped organize the event, which raised $12,420.

"Being a father, and obviously we're all big law enforcement supporters, and seeing such a great man pass away at such a young age and leaving an 8-year-old son behind, it really touched all of us." Soleymani said.

The love Zirbel had for his family is still being felt by many, including Cesar Rodriguez, who worked with him in the Clay County Sheriff's Office honor guard.

"He loved them. Everywhere we went, on a detail, over nights, he was always on the phone saying good night. (He was a) great guy," said Rodriguez.

As people take the time to enjoy the small things, like meeting the next generation of helpers when they see the children, many say they can't help but think about the sacrifice Zirbel made for his community.

Through it all, organizers said there is an important message to gain.

"Pay it forward. Any way that you can help," said Soleymani.

That's exactly what many businesses did Sunday for the fundraiser. Those businesses include Publix, V Pizza, NYC Meatballs, Roderick's, Kristine's Crafts, Orangetheory Fitness, McDonald's, Oakleaf Real Residents Facebook page and Oakleaf High School.