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'Being a parent, this is the worst nightmare': Arcadia Community continues to show support to family of young girl killed in crash at daycare

Posted at 10:41 PM, Mar 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 05:34:05-04

ARCADIA, Fla. — People in the DeSoto county town of Arcadia are still grieving, and trying to lift up the family of 4-year-old girl Maleena Valdez's after her tragic death followed by a vehicle running into the Imagination Station Learning Station.

Exactly one week after, investigators said an 18-year-old was driving without a license, crashed her car into the Imagination State Learning Center's playground, as children were playing— people in in the area are doing what they can to help.

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The fence wrapped around the playground is still a source of pain for those in the area.

“We love them, I don’t know them personally, but we care about them. This community does care," said Darrell Williamson.

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That is the message Williamson wants the Valdez family to know while they continue to mourn.

A week ago, Maleena was at the playground, living the carefree days of a 4-year-old before the crash took her life. Now Williamson is helping fix the playground after the damage from the crash.

"It’s eye opening, it’s tragic, it’s tragic for everyone in this community. Not just for the kids here, but for the parents,” Williamson said.

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Williamson's grandchildren both attend the daycare and were also on the playground the day of the crash, but left minutes before it happened. He said he knows the owners of the daycare and says they are a blessing. He wanted to help them as much as he could while they are in mourning.

"How do you recover from this?" Williamson said. "They are heartbroken, these are folks who love kids like they are their own.”

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What he loves most is the fact that everyone wants to help.

Ashley Beck, owner of Beck's Truckin Good BBQ, and friend of the family is also doing her part to help.

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“I’m a parent, what emotions could you feel except that you feel upset for the family," Beck said. "I felt upset for the driver at first, because you could imagine that it was an accident. Accidents do happen, but then again when you find out more of the story, you kind of turn to anger.”

Beck is hosting a fundraiser to help the family which will have food, a bounce house, a water slide, and live music. She received numerous donations to help buy food and one local business donated the bounce house and water slide.

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“When he lays it on your heart, you do what God tells you to do. I mean, how could you not want to help? How could you not want to step up and make that first step to help this family out," Beck said. "Even if it’s only going to take the financial burden off of them, that’s a big burden to take off somebody at the point in time when they are going through a lot of grief.”

The BBQ Benefit will be Saturday, 150 S. Polk Ave. Arcadia Florida 34266. It is set to start at 11:00 am.

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