CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW) — When Ann Potoczniak lost her 19-year-old daughter Amanda Macaluso to a crash involving a tractor-trailer in 2014, her world was shattered. Three years later, however, Potoczniak was dealing with unthinkable loss yet again when she learned her 14-year-old daughter, Mikaela Gwitt, died in an equally-tragic accident.
"Once was enough - but to happen twice, no mother should have go through that," she said during an interview at her Cheektowaga home.
Mikaela was a passenger on an ATV that was involved in an accident on the Clarence bike path in 2017. Potoczniak still holds on to the last thing her daughter said to her.
"Her last words were I love you. So at least I have that," she said.
Now Amanda and Mikaela's family members are working to keep their memories alive. They're raising money to build a basketball court in their honor in Lancaster's Westwood Park.
"We just want to do something," explained Mikaela's father, Michael Gwitt. "Amanda was a cheerleader. Mikaela played basketball, it's just a perfect fit."
The court plans have been approved, but the fundraising is still underway. Installing the court will cost about $43,000.
"It's a little more expensive than we thought, but it's a professional-built basketball court," said Gwitt.
This weekend, the family is holding a fundraiser to support the project. On Saturday, October 5th, they're having an event at The Cove on Transit Road in Depew from 12-4. There will be basket raffles, food and live entertainment. Tickets will cost $20, and the Crew Cheif for Lancaster Parks is helping the family with the event.
"It's great for our community, and it's great for this park," explained Michelle Barbaro. "I just hope the community and anybody who can relate to such a tragic situation will be there to show their support."
Amanda and Mikaela's family members are hoping the basketball court becomes a place for kids to play, families to gather, and loved ones to reflect.
"Mikaela's friends, Amanda's friends, kind of will have somewhere to go too," said Gwitt. "So if they're having a rough time or they're having a great day, they can go there and spend time."
"They were such beautiful souls who would have done anything for anybody." said Potoczniak. "They deserve to be remembered. Always."
She went on to share this message with other parents:
"You should always love your children," she said, with tears in her eyes. "Hug them, tell them you love them. You never know what's going to happen."
You can donate to the fundraiser through this Go Fund Me page.If you'd like to learn more about the fundraiser, you can contact Ann at 867-4659 or Tammy at 713-0232.