Zachary Gonzalez was a happy, thriving young man.  Zach came to live at the Donlen house when he was nine years old, back in 1999. He had lost his father, Reinaldo, when he was three years old and his father was struck by a drunk driver while crossing the street.  He then lost his mother, Joann, when he was nine.  Joann died just two days after being diagnosed with leukemia.

After moving to Levittown from NE Philadelphia, Zach attended Walt Disney Elementary School where he began developing new friends and became a member of the student council. Zach had always loved playing sports, especially baseball and soccer.  He soon learned to ride a bike and a skateboard.  Of great importance, it should be noted that Zach preferred longboards over skateboards! 

Once he started at Pennwood Middle School Zach found a new sport he enjoyed, wrestling.  He was accepted onto the school wrestling team in 7th and 8th grade and continued on with wrestling when he moved into Pennsbury High School.  He was on the JV wrestling team at the time of his death in 9th grade.  He was so proud of being a part of this team.

Zach overcame many obstacles that life threw at him in his short life and continued to make great strides forward.  He had a quirky personality, fabulous grin and a kind heart. He was an avid reader.  Zach loved candy and junk food.  We celebrated Zach’s 15th birthday in Disney World just days before the fateful day that took him from us.  

Zach was killed on January 19, 2014, when struck by an impaired driver while riding his bike with friends.

Zach was 15 years and 3 days old at time of his death.

A life cut short because a driver lacking full possession of his faculties was behind the wheel.


On June 10, 2017 the Pennsbury High School seniors participated in the graduation ceremonies. 775 students with 2 empty chairs.

 I am extremely thankful to Pennsbury High School, especially Principal Reggie Meadows, Assistant Principal Patricia Steckroat and Walt Disney Elementary Principal Secretary Amanda Reed for having Zach included in the commencement ceremony. Zach being remembered was an amazing experience.

An anonymous donor paid the graduation fees for Zach. We would like to thank this person from the bottom of our hearts. Zach's chair sat empty with his cap and gown.

Prior to the ceremony Mrs. Steckroat met me at the football field and allowed me to place my pennies under Zach's chair (I believe in pennies from Heaven and like to leave pennies for Zach), take some pictures and have a moment to myself. The thoughtfulness does not go unnoticed and is appreciated beyond words.

We also like to occasionally write a message on a balloon and release. This is a tradition we did with Zach when he was missing his mom. This gives my soul some peace to release these balloons. We had a green heart balloon to release when they called his name during the ceremony. However I managed to get a hole in the balloon and we had to release just prior to the ceremony beginning. This balloon looked like it was going to land on the field but was picked up by the breeze and carried away. Zach's Aunt Margie was able to bring another balloon, green star, which we wrote on and released while the graduating class threw the caps in the air. There was a young lady that sat next to Zach's chair and she moved Zach's tassel on his cap when the class moved theirs. What a kind gesture that meant so much to us. Whomever you are thank you.

 Zach's Aunts Margie and P, his Mom Mom, cousin Ashlee and I attended his graduation. A bittersweet moment in this journey. Thankful for the opportunity the Pennsbury School District provided in Zach's memory but extremely difficult to attend without Zach. It was an emotional evening. An empty chair, proud moment and broken heart.

Zachary Gonzalez

Zachary Gonzalez Scholarship Foundation