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Bradenton Astro Skate plans $5 memorial night for former employee killed in crash

Grief can take its toll on you. Here’s when to seek help.

The loss of a loved one can take a physical and emotional toll on you. Grief can produce stress in your body. The process can be different for everyone, and people may even experience “complicated grief." Learn more here.
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The loss of a loved one can take a physical and emotional toll on you. Grief can produce stress in your body. The process can be different for everyone, and people may even experience “complicated grief." Learn more here.

The death of a beloved Palmetto man sent shock waves through the community. On Saturday night, his loved ones will find support on the skating rink.

Bradenton Astro Skate, 3611 Third St. W., will host a memorial skate between 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. All of the proceeds from the $5 admission charge will go to Alberto “Ajay” James Santiago’s family, organizers said.

Santiago died in an early morning crash on May 18, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The 23-year-old was a former employee at Astro Skate, where he worked as an assistant manager for four years before becoming a barber at All Stylez Barbershop, 3535 53rd Ave. W. in Bradenton.

“When you’re a barber in a town like Bradenton, you know everyone. Ajay was a super cool guy, and everyone liked him,” said Brian Arellano, an Astro Skate employee and one of Ajay’s clients at All Stylez.

Arellano’s boss and Astro Skate general manager Dreya Holmes broke the news to him Saturday morning when he came in for work.

“It really hit home,” Allerano said. “He’s not just a barber. He’s a friend.”

Holmes was also close friends with Santiago, and called the incident “devastating.”

“I was hyperventilating and crying,” she said. “I’d seen him less than a month ago, telling him he should open up his own shop. It’s heartbreaking.”

Family and friends previously held a candlelight vigil and a visitation. Both events drew hundreds of people. Saturday’s celebration is a chance to give back to a grieving family, Holmes said.

“His family is the nicest people ever. If they know you, they become your family,” Holmes explained. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t do something to help his family.”

A celebration of life is also planned for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Moose Lodge, 203 Ninth St. Dr. W. in Palmetto. For more information on Saturday’s memorial skate, call (941) 747-8602.

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