When Brad Valentino heard about an Oct. 20 accident that resulted in the death of a local 9-year-old boy, Yesier Diaz-Ramirez, Valentino was among many in the Hamburg community that wanted to show his support.
President of the Hamburg Area Sports Booster Club (HASBC), Valentino was sitting at his son’s football practice when an email about the family came through from Aaron Menapace, Director of Interscholastic Athletics for the district. Valentino hit upon the idea to raise funds through the club’s Spirit Shack.
During the last weekend in October, during two days full of youth football events, the boosters donated 20 percent of gross sales to the cause. And a local business partner, Ronnie Folk Paving, offered to chip in an additional 120 percent of gross sales to the fund.
Both Menapace and Valentino feel the event was very successful, but Valentino noted the family still has outstanding needs.
“I want people to still take the opportunity to give to them,” Valentino added.
Yesier left behind his parents and two siblings. The family, Valentino explained, were victims of the hurricane in Puerto Rico and recently resettled in Hamburg.
“From there on out, to my understanding,” Valentino said, “they’ve been hit by one thing after another.”
“It doesn’t matter how long they’ve lived in the community,” he added. “I think if any one of us lost a child, we’d hope the community would come together and support us. In this case here, we had a monetary need and it was up to the community to step up and help with this family, help supply the funds needed that they could bury their child.”
Pastor Mark Caston of the Bridge Church, Hamburg, conducted the funeral service for Yesier.
“They’re a wonderful family,” Caston said of the Diaz-Rameriz family. “It’s really been a cooperative effort between the schools, the Salvation Army, the Hamburg ministerium and others in the community. The biggest support is spiritually and emotionally, letting this family know that we care.”
Funds raised helped cover the costs resulting from the accident including the funeral and medical expenses. Yesier’s mother will need ongoing treatment, including surgery, in the months ahead, Caston noted.
Lacie Cucciuffo is principal of Tilden Elementery Center, where Yesier attended and his brother is still a student. The staff of Tilden participated in a week-long blue jeans fundraiser and donated all proceeds to the family. She also commended the community for their support of the family.
“Overwhelming support,” she confirmed. “When the story first was made public, the secretaries were answering the phones continuously with people who just wanted to help. And that’s typical of Hamburg. Any time there is a need, people are more than willing to help anyway they can. The community support was amazing.”
Cucciuffo said that ongoing contributions to the Diaz-Rameriz family can be sent to Leibensperger Funeral Homes, 65 S. 4th Street, Hamburg, PA 19526.