So on March 8, the family of Sandra Cantu will celebrate her memory at Robert Kenner Park next to Jacobson Elementary School, where she was a student.
Janet Anderson, a cousin of Maria Chavez, Sandra’s mother, said she’s spearheading the small public get-together so her family has something to look forward to.
She said as the anniversary of the little girl’s death approaches, Sandra’s family wants to focus on their love for her.
“This is something simple that might be a good way of not concentrating on such a horrible time, but what she represents,” she said.
Anderson said the celebration is also a way to thank countless volunteers.
Hundreds of locals helped the police and the FBI search for Sandra in the more than a week she was missing, and so many more supported the family through a trying year, she said.
“I personally think the family would’ve never made it without the community support,” she said. “They stepped up to the plate, from the littlest things to the biggest things. I’ve never seen a community come together so much, and I’ve lived here 17 years.”
Tracy police chaplain Don Higgins will speak, and cupcakes, donated by a local business, will be served.
Higgins said the “phenomenal” way people came together shows Tracy’s community-oriented spirit.
“Sandra was the epitome, in a lot of people’s minds, of innocence, and that which we need to protect,” he said. “I think it really speaks to how this community views children and that we’re willing to go to great extremes to take care of them, protect them and watch out for them.”
Sandra disappeared last March from the Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park, where she lived. Ten days later, her body was found inside a suitcase floating in an irrigation pond north of town.
Melissa Huckaby, a neighbor whose daughter used to play with Sandra, is awaiting trial on homicide, rape and kidnapping charges, and could face the death penalty if convicted.
At a glance
• WHAT: Remembrance Ceremony for Sandra Cantu
• WHEN: 7 p.m. March 8
• WHERE: Robert Kenner Park, 1850 Kavanaugh Ave.
• INFO: 321-5981