Heartbroken friends and family members filled Saint Anthony's Church in Atwater to mourn the loss of Monica Cazares. Students from Winton Middle School could not fight back tears as they remembered their classmate.
The thirteen-year-old died after being hit by a car last week on Winton Way, just a few feet away from her home. The highway patrol says the 25-year-old driver was going the speed limit, and did not see Monica in the street. The tragedy touched many in this close-knit community and created a bond between the teen's father and the Winton School District Superintendent.
Randy Heller said, "I've met with him several evenings, and each time I meet with him I become closer to him. He's a very genuine person, and nobody wants to go through burying their child."
Heller says the entire community has come together to ease the burden on Monica's family. Students have held car washes and bought t-shirts to raise money, and many people have made generous donations.
Heller said, "I'm very impressed with the community of Winton. Many teachers, many businesses, many community members have stepped up and financially supported the funeral expenses. It wasn't done by one person, it was done by many, many, many people."
Many also came to the church to show their on-going support for the Cazares family, and their love for a little girl whose life was cut short.
Alexis Guerra, Monica's friend said, "I hope she knows everyone loved her. And that her death is really important to everyone."