NEWTOWN, Conn. (WTNH) – This is a bittersweet week for one Newtown family who lost a loved one at Sandy Hook. On Monday, Chase Kowalski would have been celebrating his 17th birthday.

Chase was a fun-loving kid who took part in triathlons, and after his death, his family created the CMAK foundation in his memory to help other kids.

John Orzechowski grew up with Chase and considers him a brother. Their mothers were inseparable best friends before Orzechowski and Chase were even born.

“He was just awesome,” Orzechowski said. “Kid lit everybody’s day, always walked around with a smile on his face, just somebody you always wanted to be around.”

Out of the grief of Chase’s death grew the CMAK Sandy Hook Memorial Foundation, which raises money to help kids do what Chase loved to do. Orzechowski is on the CMAK Board of Directors.

“Ever since it’s just taken off,” Orzechowski said. “It’s based around the kid’s triathlon program and it’s a six-week-long program, and the kids sign up and get accepted, learn how to swim, bike and run, even if they have no experience before.”

Orzechowski is running in the New York Marathon on Sunday to help raise money for the foundation.

“It really means a lot to me,” Orzechowski said. “Chase was like a brother, little brother. I mean, it really, it’s just something I wanted to do to keep his legacy alive and just remember him, and obviously, the rest of the people that unfortunately passed that day.”

The NY Marathon is grueling, but Orzechowski has been training and he knows Chase will be with him every step of the way.

Orzechowski works in the sales department at WTNH.

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