NORTH WILDWOOD — As teens rinsed and scrubbed down cars in a parking lot at First and Olde New Jersey avenues, C.J. Deegler recalled the times Sadie Faulkner lifted his spirits when he felt awkward and out of place.

“Back in middle school at the dances, she slow-danced with me just to make my night,” said Deegler, 15, of Cape May Court House.

Some were close friends, others knew her from afar, but those who came out for a car wash Saturday to benefit the family of Sadie Faulkner said she was someone special.

Faulkner, 17, of the Rio Grande section of Middle Township, died in an early morning car crash Thursday on Route 47. Township police are investigating.

A roadside memorial was created for Faulkner with flowers and gifts at the site across from the county Municipal Utilities Authority.

Friends said Faulkner had just completed her junior year at Middle Township High School, where she was part of the track team. She attended Wildwood Catholic High School for her freshman and sophomore years and had many friends throughout Cape May County.

“I wouldn’t be half the person I am without her,” said Ava Vandepol, 17, of Wildwood.

Vandepol and Hayley Quinn, 17, of Stone Harbor, said Faulkner was known affectionately as “Sud” by friends. Although she disliked the childhood nickname, Faulkner let everyone call her it anyway because it made others happy.

“She always had something positive to say,” said Quinn, calling her “the light in all our days.”

C.J. Deegler’s sister Caroline, 14, a student at Wildwood Catholic, washed cars with her family Saturday morning and said she was grateful for the support Faulkner showed her older brother.

“I never got to thank her for that, so to me, this is a way to thank her and her family,” Caroline said.

Riley Kane, 15, of North Wildwood, also a Wildwood Catholic student, said Faulkner “would definitely want everyone to celebrate her life.”

“She always lit up the room wherever she was,” Kane said.

In between the soap suds and sprays of water, tears were shed and hugs were shared between friends who came and went through the morning.

Kara Saunders, who coaches the girls soccer team at Wildwood Catholic, said she didn’t know Faulkner but was asked to organize the car wash Thursday night.

Saunders said the proceeds will go to the family, but she hopes the event provides an emotional outlet for those who knew Sadie.

“It’s not so much how much money we raise, but just a way for the girls to feel like they’re doing something for the family,” said Saunders, of Cape May Court House.

She said the extent of the outreach shows the community does not stop at the bridge.

Local businesses also are reaching out to the family. Rita’s Water Ice in Rio Grande will donate proceeds from sales Monday to offset the family’s expenses, the business announced on its Facebook page Saturday.

Anglesea Pub in North Wildwood and Blue Eden bath and body shop in Stone Harbor are collecting funds through a gofundme page, as well as collecting in their stores.

The North Wildwood Police Association is also making a donation, they said, as well as the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Anglesea Pub General Manager Sean McMullan, 46, who is a longtime friend of Faulkner’s family, said he is heartbroken. He recalled Sadie’s bright smile and “beautiful personality.”

“This is tragic,” he said. “The power of community, you’re seeing it right here.”

Spilker Funeral Home in Cape May said visitation will be 9:30 a.m.-noon Wednesday at the First Assembly of God Church, 1068 Seashore Road, Cape May, with the memorial starting at noon. “In honor of Sadie, please wear comfortable and colorful attire,” Faulkner’s obituary read.

Faulkner is survived by her parents, Patricia Conley Faulkner and Jason Faulkner, her sister, Payton, and half-brother, Brock; as well as grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephhews and cousins, and her dog, Biscuit.

Contact: 609-272-7251 Twitter @clairelowe

Staff Writer

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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