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Groton man’s family remembers him as a hero

GROTON – A community is teaming up at a softball game to honor a good Samaritan who was murdered trying to save someone else’s life.

Joey Gingerella, 24, was shot and killed in December. Police say he was at Ryan's Pub in Groton, when he noticed a man beating a woman, later determined to be the suspect's girlfriend, in the parking lot. Gingerella tried to intervene, but was shot several times and later died.

“Joey actually sacrificed his life,” his mother said.He lost it helping somebody else.”

Gingerella’s passion was always baseball. He played the sport growing up and it helped him overcome an opioid addiction.

“One of the worst things for addicts and alcoholics is to have free time on our hands,” Joey’s Drug Rehabilitation Sponsor Greg Aldinger said. “Baseball meant everything to him.”

Aldinger had the idea to hold a softball game in Gingerella’s honor, replacing his position of shortstop with his cleats and glove.

His former teammates and community members gathered for a game at Washington Park, Thursday.

“It killed us all when he got taken from us but we wanna celebrate his life on the field and the fun we had together,” Aldinger said.

Gingerella’s mother Tammy de la Cruz said Joey always wanted to coach baseball so it made sense that this all comes full circle.

“Baseball and softball ended up being what he needed to kind of heal,” she said. “It started out as the love of his life and ended up being his healing, it meant everything.”

Gingerella battled an opioid addiction for years, which led him, his mother Tammy and his stepfather Joe to start Community Speaks Out, a local nonprofit that advocates on behalf of families struggling with addiction.

They said he spoke about overcoming his addiction at his former school, Fitch High School.

“Joey was a hero to us before this all happened,” de la Cruz said. “Joey speaking about his addiction and owning it and really changing the way kids looked at drugs because Joey was the face they recognized was someone they related to.”

His story has been touching hearts across the globe through a social media campaign started by his friend Ashley Shaw Giorodano.

She asked people in the Facebook group to complete the phrase "Joey Gingerella lived and died a hero and we know that in....." Then, Facebook friends would write where in the world they were located, take a picture, and send it to Ashley. Pictures accompanied by the phrase came in from all around the world.

Thursday night’s game is part of an effort for the family to raise money to give back to the community.

The Groton Little League had the idea to raise money to install lights at the Calvin Burrows Field, where Joey used to play little league in his honor.

The family has a goal to raise 40-thousand dollars for the lights which will be named after Joey. You can help them raise money on the “Light it Up Joey,” gofundme page.

There will also be other event held to raise money for the cause including a comedy show fundraiser at the Elks Club in Grotton, Saturday, July 15th at 8 p.m.