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Posted: Sunday, May. 31, 2009

Families to remember loved ones at fundraiser

By Celeste Smith
Published in: Regional News

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Of all the people Sandra Huerta met over the years at support group meetings for families grieving the loss of a child, one face in particular stays with her.

The young man in his 20s had recently lost a sibling. “He wouldn't look up. He was so distraught. It has changed his life completely,” said Huerta, a member of The Compassionate Friends of Charlotte.

A marketing manager, Huerta decided a high-profile fundraiser – in the form of a fashion show, with parents and siblings serving as models – would be good for the public and for group members.

The group's first “Survivors” show happens Saturday, at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Ballantyne, combining the fashion event, a silent auction, gourmet pastries and raffles. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door.

“You're going to give these kids and these parents an opportunity to walk on stage with their head held high,” said Huerta, who said her 21-year-old son, Sergio, was murdered in California five years ago. “It's to be able to do something together, as a group of survivors.”

The show also will help spread awareness about the Charlotte chapter, a spinoff from the national organization. Meetings are free and open to anyone.

The local chapter set a goal of making $5,000, but the event already has generated $4,500 from advertisement sales for the program, and from ticket and raffle purchases, Huerta said. Money raised will be used to buy literature for the chapter's library and hire speakers.

She said the early jump on fundraising reflects the ties that many in the community already feel with Compassionate Friends, which Charlotte chapter founder Donna Goodrich started in 2007. Word has spread about how members support each other: The parent group recently added a second monthly meeting and launched a separate meeting group for siblings.

Huerta, 43, sought out the Charlotte chapter after relocating here. She had been active in a chapter in California and finds it's crucial for her to connect with others who understand.

“Life can be even more devastating if you don't reach out to people,” she said. “We're like a whole society of people. When you step into a support group room, you know you can be yourself.”

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