ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – So many people were affected by the news of Victoria Martens’ death, but one woman jumped into action, planning the birthday party Victoria was looking forward to celebrating the day of her murder.
That idea has grown into something so much bigger than the woman imagined.
Saturday, KRQE News 13 got a glimpse of how complete strangers are stepping in to set up a special celebration of young Victoria’s life.
Erica Smith and a group of helpers headed straight for the toy aisle at the Walmart near Ellison and Coors in northwest Albuquerque Saturday afternoon.
Smith and a group of moms loaded up shopping carts with dozens of stuffed animals.
“I think Victoria would have liked that one, she liked purple,” Smith told a little girl, as she picked out a stuffed animal.
Smith and others are planning a special birthday bash, the one 10-year-old Victoria Martens didn’t get to have.
“I think that’s why it hit me so hard is because I am a mom,” Smith told KRQE News 13.
Even though Smith has no relation to Victoria, when she heard on the news that a 10-year-old was brutally murdered the day after her birthday, Smith stepped up.
“Initially the thought was just to share it with my 158 Facebook friends,” Smith smiled. “I think over the last two days that number has tripled.”
Since the post, thousands of people have responded to the Facebook invite for Princess Victoria’s Heavenly Birthday.
One man donated $200 specifically to purchase stuffed animals for Victoria’s classmates.
“To make sure that just every child at Petroglyph Elementary who knew and loved Victoria has something to comfort them every night,” said Smith.
Also helping plan the party are families who suffered their own tragedies, grandmothers whose grandchildren were murdered.
“I wish that it didn’t take a child getting murdered for the community to come together,” said Tracey Sylvia, whose granddaughter was murdered nearly four years ago.
The group has vowed it won’t stop here. Smith said she feels a calling to continue helping people.
“When the dust settles and this is all over, I feel like I want to be involved,” Smith said. “I want to be an advocate for children.”
Passing shoppers were touched by the shopping excursion and shared tears and hugs with the moms.
When it was time to check out, even the cashier choked up.
“I think it’s just a true testament to the community here,” said Smith.
Businesses, individuals, state representatives, and Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry are also helping with the birthday festivities.
Smith said the whole experience has been a touching response to her small idea.
“A lot of times the bad folks outshine us, but us good folks, we are winning today,” Smith said Saturday.
A church in Peralta is also bringing a horse to Victoria’s birthday party Sunday.
Everyone is encouraged to wear purple, Victoria’s favorite color.
The party is from 2-8 p.m. at Mariposa Park. The event has gotten so large, the City of Albuquerque is providing a Park and Ride which will operate from St. Pius High School to the park.