This week, B.j. Eastman received a gift from the Miami Dolphins: a helmet signed by the team, as well as a signed football and a mini helmet.
“When I was 10 years old, I bought a Miami Dolphins hat and that has just been my team ever since,” Eastman told The Chronicle. “It rubbed off on (my son), I guess. He tried to like the Cowboys for a very short time. Then I think the Colts, when they were about to go to the Super Bowl, he liked them. He liked other teams, but Dolphins was his team.”
The package also included a note from Jacob Jenkins, the senior vice president of communications and community affairs for the Miami Dolphins.
“Ben, we were so sorry to read about the tragic and senseless loss of your son,” the note reads. “All accounts showed he was an amazing young man. We are so proud to hear about you and your family’s strength and courage during this difficult time. Please accept these small items on our behalf. Let’s stay in touch during the coming months and during the season.”
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B.j. Eastman’s son, Ben Eastman III, was reported missing on June 27. His body was found in a shallow grave off Cispus Road on June 29 and two suspects have since been charged with first-degree murder.
“I’m just focusing my energy on honoring my son,” Eastman said. “That’s all I have the strength for. I have no strength for the negative. I have no feeling, no emotion, for the perpetrators – just no energy. I look forward to honoring my son and I think we’re accomplishing that.”
Eastman said he plans to keep the helmet and other gifts in his home.
“I’m going to set up his room as a memorial and I’ll put a TV (in it),” he said. “That’s where I’ll watch my football from now on.”
Eastman said multiple people he knows reached out to the Miami Dolphins, telling the team about his son’s death. Eastman shared a photo of the gifts from the Miami Dolphins on his Facebook page. As of Wednesday afternoon, the post had more than 900 likes and 200 shares.
Eastman said the feedback from community members and the messages have been positive and overwhelming.
“I try to respond to them all, but it’s hard,” Eastman said. “Either ‘thank you’ or ‘#sharethelove’ is my response. I’m not trying to be short. I’ve just got so many that I just want to make sure that I heard them and I appreciate it.”
Eastman said he hasn’t had to worry about funeral finances because of donations from the community. The gofundme page #justiceforben accepts donations for the family and has already raised more than $5,500.
“I haven’t had to worry about finances as far as the funeral,” Eastman said. “I’ve been able to just solely honor my son and not have to stress. The community has lifted a big burden, made a very (sorrowful) time have some light.”
In addition, Eastman hopes to set up some type of fund to help future students at White Pass Junior Senior High School, where his son was a student.
“It looks like I might be able to do something positive for the school,” Eastman said. “I know how that can be a struggle and a burden for a kid not to be able to have the nice basketball shoes and stuff. It meant a lot to me when I was younger. I didn’t have those things and I tried to make sure my boy had what I could provide for him.”
Last week, the school hosted a vigil for Eastman III. Many people wore aqua blue and orange to honor him as a Miami Dolphins fan. Eastman wore a shirt with his son’s photo on it in those same colors with the words “rest easy son.”
“They were looking at me for strength,” Eastman said of the vigil. “I’m pulling strength from them, so as long as they keep supporting (me), I’ll keep supporting them and I guess we’ll just bounce back and forth. We’ll all get through this together.”