Community rallies to support Garcia family


Fifteen-year-old Cindy Garcia, a Malverne High School student who was killed in a two-car crash in Valley Stream on Jan. 27, was buried last week after a funeral mass at Our Lady of Loretto Church in Hempstead, and the local community has banded together to show their support for the Garcia family.

On Feb. 2, the West Hempstead Chiefs Soccer Club — for which Cindy played, as a member of the Firebirds team, for nearly three years — held a ceremony honoring her and her sister, Elizabeth Garcia Gamez, 13, at West Hempstead High School. Elizabeth, who played for the West Hempstead Warriors, was in critical but stable condition after the crash, and the club gathered for a moment of silence and a ceremonial release of balloons.

Elaine McKay, the club’s secretary, said that Cindy was a player who enjoyed sharing her love for the game with her teammates. “On the sidelines she was shy and quiet, but when she stepped onto the field she was fearless,” McKay said. “She had a beautiful smile that could brighten anyone’s day. She would smile when she went onto the field and when she came off, but you should have seen her smile when she scored a goal.”

At the ceremony, Diego Mansela, a friend of the Garcia family, spoke on their behalf, thanking the girls’ teammates for their support. Cindy’s soccer coaches, Renee Ramirez and John McKay, also talked about the girls.

Loraine Magaraci, a member of the Chiefs’ executive board, said she organized the ceremony as a way for the entire club to pay its respects together, because while Cindy and Elizabeth did not live in the neighborhood, she said, they were still part of the West Hempstead soccer family.

“As a mom, I can’t even imagine what they’re going through, but it is just so wonderful to see a community like West Hempstead — we are a very tight-knit community that comes together to support them,” Magaraci said. “I think it’s wonderful that the community is coming together to show their support and love, and I hope it — even just a little bit — helps.”

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