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'Borner's Benches' a loving tribute Soccer field stands honor faithful fan lost on Flight 3407

"Borner's Benches" stand as a permanent memorial honoring a man whose dedication to the Starpoint High School soccer programs was exceeded only by his devotion to family.

It's a pair of first-class structures for a "first-class guy," according to David Borner's friends Patrick Lewis and Mike Hale. But it turns out the project spearheaded by friends of the late Borner is more than just a permanent remembrance of a man whose life ended under tragic circumstances.

David Borner was one of the 50 victims in the Feb. 12 crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Clarence Center. The memorial, from planning to completion, has been therapeutic for Borner's widow, Cheryl. Attending planning meetings provided her the opportunity to be around close friends, giving her a chance to deal with her grief in a healthy way.

Seeing the finished product -- two handsome brick structures gracing the sideline of Starpoint High's varsity soccer field -- for the first time earlier this month proved to be another necessary step for the woman whose life changed forever Feb. 12.

"It keeps me going," Cheryl Borner said last week. "These are the things that are keeping me going in a positive way."

Friday afternoon will provide another one of those moments. David Borner's family and friends will gather at Starpoint's varsity soccer field at 3:30 p.m. to officially dedicate "Borner's Benches" to the school. The ceremony will include a ribbon-cutting, a moment of silence for the victims of Flight 3407, light refreshments for those in attendance and a heartfelt thank you from Cheryl Borner.

"It's a tribute to Dave and what he was all about," Cheryl said.

David Borner was husband, father, friend and a Spartan through and through.

While the former Kraft Foods salesman didn't score any goals or block any shots for Starpoint's soccer programs, he found other ways to contribute to the success of the teams his children played for.

Borner's daughter, Nicole, who graduated in June, became the first Spartans girls soccer player to earn a Division I scholarship, while his son, Michael, currently is a member of the junior varsity boys team.

David Borner was usually the first parent on the scene to set up a portable tent on game days to protect players from harsh weather. He also was known to bring water to the team and to occasionally cook pregame meals for his daughter's teammates.

"He was so supportive of our program that as soon as people brought up the idea of doing something in his honor, it was a great idea and the whole community jumped on board," said Tom Sarkovics, Starpoint's athletic director, who taught both David and Cheryl during their high school days. "We're looking forward to the dedication."

Initial construction estimates in the spring placed a $33,000 price tag on the project. According to Hale -- the group's liaison -- the crew saved $20,000 because of donations from several contractors and the connections of Borner's former classmate Greg Wendt, who owns a contracting company.

The group raised money through a chicken barbecue in June and through donations. Starpoint's senior class made a $2,000 donation to the project. The school's Student Council also gave $1,000, while Borner's former employer, Kraft Foods, donated $5,000.

The structures -- one for the home team and one for the visitors -- each has two gutters, block walls, shingle roofs, some aluminum siding and aluminum benches on top of a cement pad.

The plaque that will adorn the outside wall of the home team's bench will be installed next month.

But for now, everyone knows the significance of "Borner's Benches."

"It's maintenance-free. We ended up doing everything first class," Hale said. "You hear all the stuff about Buffalo and the area, and people do come out to help, and obviously Dave was a real well-liked guy in the area and supported the soccer program, so once people heard, they jumped right in and did some stuff for us. They all did a great job, and they were happy to do it."

Meanwhile, a walk-run event, Dave's Dash, will be held to raise money for a scholarship that will be awarded in David Borner's memory, according to Cheryl Borner. Dave's Dash is Oct. 3 with a 1.2K walk to start at 9:45 a.m. and a 5K run at 10. Cost is $20. Registration is at 8:30. A two-hour post-event party starts at 11. For more information, visit davesdash.com.

e-mail: mrodriguez@buffnews.com

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