By Ricardo Tomboc
On New Year’s Eve Tuesday, December 31, during the late afternoon hours, several hundred people gathered in the parking lot in front of the Ronald McDonald House in Loma Linda to take part in The Unforgettables Foundation’s “20th Annual Light for Little Lives Memorial Walk”. There was a brief opening ceremony that included a welcome and introduction by the Unforgettable’s Founder Chaplain Timothy Evans and several others who also welcomed the participants.
At sunset, parents who have lost a child in 2019 released a dove into the sky. A larger dove release followed, as all the doves took flight and gathered above the spectators into one flock encircling the area for several minutes before making their way home. A presentation to the mothers was made where dozens of red roses were placed on a little red wagon by everyone who had suffered a loss of a child.
Carlos Pastrano (12) from San Bernardino, was selected to pull the little red wagon, leading hundreds of people making their way to the Campus Hill Church during the half-mile walk where formal ceremonies and recognitions were conducted. Carlos’ father Adam Pastrano got involved in The Unforgettables Foundation after experiencing a loss of a child. Adam has helped put on car shows through his car club benefiting The Unforgettables. The Loma Linda Fire Department escorted those making the walk, blocking traffic and encouraging participants.
Among the crowd were the parents of Arianna Villalobos who held a portrait of their daughter Arianna (Ari), pictured being held by Jesus with her head resting on His shoulders. Ari passed away from cancer on Oct. 1, 2019. All the family members and friends wore T-shirts with the image of Ari and the words “Don’t be sorry for Ari, Be Saved by Jesus”.
Not only did parents and families who had lost a child participate in the annual memorial walk, but among the group of about 300 were doctors, boy scouts, volunteers, clergy, community leaders, civic group members, and those representing other nonprofit organizations; all in support of The Unforgettables vision.
At the Campus Hill Church, Senior Pastor Mark Etchell welcomed everyone and introduced Tim Evans who addressed the gathering. The Loma Linda Crossroads Rotary Club and The Unforgettables Foundation presented the Top Doctor Award to Dr. Donald Case, Dr. Gerado Hizon, Dr. Chalmer McClure, and Dr. James Moynihan; the Christopher Kohlmeier Award was presented by the Redlands Optimist Club to Genesis Raine Easley; The Unforgettables Dr. Leonard Bailey Legacy Award was presented by Evans to Dr. Anees Razzouk.
“Reading of the Names” honored children The Unforgettables has served in the past, a task undertaken by Christine Beamer, Angelina Bodine, LeAnne Chavez, and Maryellen Shaw. A vocal duet singing the tune “Unforgettable” was given by Kaija and Kelsey Cauldren, a mother and daughter duo.
Stan Morrison performed the Family Candle Lighting and Remembrance ceremony where families came forward with a lit candle saying the name of their child as they stood in place at the church’s altar. The Closing Blessing was given by Rabbi Hillel Cohn, Pastor Etchell, Rev. Ray Turner, and Pastor Randy Roberts.
The mission of The Unforgettables Foundation is to enable low-income families to give their children a dignified burial, to empower communities to memorialize children who have died, to educate parents and children’s caregivers to confront, control and conquer the primary risk to our children’s health and wholeness, and to encourage communities to recognize the financial trauma which is often associated with the death of a child.
For more information on The Unforgettables Foundation visit www.unforgettables.org or call (909) 335-1600.