BRADENTON -- More than $6,000 has been raised for a Bradenton family who lost four relatives April 16 in the earthquake in Ecuador, a country of about 16 million on South America's west coast.
"What a beautiful surprise to see that not only we completed the goal but we keep receiving help from all of you!" a post Friday morning read on the GoFundMe page. "Words cannot describe how grateful we are to everyone who has helped us through this difficult time and encouraged us to continue doing whatever it takes to help my uncle Marcelo and cousins Daniela and Betsabe."
Gisela Herrera-Pardo, 28, of Bradenton, created the GoFundMe page Monday after her family was hit with tragic news: Herrera-Pardo's maternal aunt Marjorie Elizabeth Macias Cruz, 58, had died in the earthquake Saturday along with her three grandchildren, Thiago Rafael Zambrano Cepeda, 4; Elias Gabriel Cepeda Macias, 23 months; and Leah
Marcela Cepeda Macias, 26 months.
The four were crushed when the four-story building where Marjorie worked and lived in the coastal town of Pedernales had collapsed.
In an interview with a Herald reporter this week, Herrera-Pardo and her cousins, Rosemary Stay and Paola Stay-Cruz, said the body of Thiago was found first, and then the bodies of Marjorie and her other two grandchildren. Their aunt had been holding Elias and Leah close to her, the family said.
"She was, until the end, caring for her grandchildren because, until the end, she tried to protect them," said Rosemary, 35. "It was like the instinct of a mother, to protect your children."
According to the GoFundMe page, all money raised will go toward funeral costs and to get Marjorie's widower and his two daughters in a safe place.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.