As she read her son’s name, Andrea Pineda could not control the emotion that poured from inside.
Little Andres Garcia Jr. was only seven weeks old when lost a brave battle to live, Pineda said.
“My son. My hero,” she said through tears and grief to an emotional crowd at Campus Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Pineda, 23, and her husband Andres Garcia, 25, and dozens of other families and loved ones honored children who lost their lives in 2011 during the annual Lights for Little Lives ceremony presented by the Unforgettables Foundation.
For more than a decade, the group has gathered at the Ronald McDonald House on Barton Road and Anderson Street for a ceremony that includes prayer and the releasing of doves.
They then take the half-mile walk up Anderson to the church on Hill Drive, where the ceremony continues. The names of the children lost throughout the year are read aloud.
“This really about awareness in the community and helping the families remember the children,” said Suzie Aceves, office manager for the Unforgettables. And that goes for children who passed away years ago, she said.
The Unforgettables provide financial assistance to families who have lost a child and are unable to afford a proper burial. A sister Light for Little Lives event was held in Palm Desert.
“I think that’s a very precious and noble thing,” said Pastor Michael Hanson, with Campus Hill Church. “I think it’s a very precious and noble thing when I heard the stories that were shared this evening. You know it really made me feel good that people chose to take their grief and their sorrow and turn it into something positive and help other young children.”
Pastor Hanson also lost a child, a daughter who died on Aug. 19, 1974 due to complications of cystic fibrosis.
“It doesn’t matter how many years, when you’re a parent and you’ve lost a child even though you’ve lost a child, even though you find light and hope and reasons for going on and laughter, a parent never forgets.”
The loss is still very fresh for the parents of Andres Jr. The child was the couple’s first. Hours after he was born on May 23, they learned he had a heart condition.
“All the ultrasounds were normal. He was full-term. Everything was fine,” Garcia said. “This came out of nowhere.”
“We were glad to find this,” Pineda said. “This is a good way to remember these children.”