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Neighbors rally around grieving Whittier family

first_imgWHITTIER – After spending nearly four decades in Whittier, Rosalinda Valdez said she has always loved this community, though there was never really anything concrete she could point to that would explain why. But in the wake of her 12-year-old grandson Elijah’s death in a traffic collision with a big rig last week, Valdez said the reason she never left has become quite clear. “The support we’ve gotten from everybody is amazing – even people we don’t know have come to us to help us out,” she said Thursday as the family was preparing for the boy’s memorial service. “This was my grandson’s home, and I’m just at a loss for words,” she added. “It’s a shame it took something like this to see what the community is like, to see how good it is.” The death last week of East Whittier Middle School seventh-grader Elijah Ernest Valdez was a tragedy, said Don Rivera, a neighbor of the Valdez family. The boy was killed Feb. 8 at Painter Avenue and Lambert Road as he was making the two-mile bike ride home from school. Since that time, Rivera and his neighbors have been making sure the Valdez family has plenty of food and groceries, even opening up their homes to take in dozens of relatives in town to attend the boy’s funeral. Elijah’s death even prompted local Boy Scout leaders to organize a bike safety rodeo that will be open to all local youth, said Barbara Sandoval, vice chair of programs for the Boy Scouts’ Rio Hondo district. “Right now, we’re trying to see which school will allow us to host the event there, and we’re also contacting law enforcement agencies and a local bike shop,” Sandoval said. “We’re hoping to do it soon, but we also want to put on something of quality that serves as many people as possible,” she added. A fund for Elijah’s family to help offset the costs of the funeral has been set up at the Washington Mutual branch in Uptown, Rivera said. “I can’t tell you what a quality family this is,” Rivera said. “This is a family that when anyone was in need, they were there. And now we’re just trying to be there for them.” Valdez said she and her husband, Ernest, and Elijah’s mother Naomi, are extremely thankful for the efforts of their neighbors and the Boy Scouts. She said she hopes to help the school district re-establish busing for middle school students. But she also had words of advice for parents everywhere. “Just make sure, always, that before your children leave home, tell them how much you love them and kiss them and tell them to be careful,” Valdez said. “That’s what I did. When \ left that day, he turned around and said, `I love you, grandma. I’ll see you later.’ Never go one day without telling them you love them.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3051 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img