From Downey to Boston to Liverpool, England, support is pouring in for the families of two Cerritos College soccer standouts killed during a car crash Aug. 13 in eastern Utah.
Cerritos College soccer coach Benny Arteaga said the deaths of former Warren High School star Carlos Ornelas and teammate Eddie Valencia have struck a chord with the sports community.
“They were, for the most part, inner-city Latino males and they are told they are going to fail, and they defied that,” he said. “They were doing all the right things.”
The two young men had transferred from Cerritos and were on their way to play soccer at Kansas Wesleyan University, a top NAIA program, when they died in a rollover crash in Utah. A third player was injured but survived the crash.
Local restaurants such as the Downey Brewing Co. have hosted fund-raiser nights for the families of Valencia and Ornelas.
And members of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC team of the English Premiere League have sent signed jerseys to be auctioned off in a fundraiser.
A facebook page dedicated to the two men has garnered hundreds of comments and has details on fund-raising events.
Ornelas, 21, is not from a rich family, and the costs of preserving and transporting the body to California have been expensive, said Sandra Gutierrez, a neighbor and friend of the Ornelas family who has helped with fund raising.
“I’ve heard the family may even have to take a loan to pay for things,” she said. “I’m talking with the aunt today to figure out what they need.”
She remembered Ornelas for his happy personality, and for always having a soccer ball.
For his part, Arteaga has launched what has turned out to be a massive money-raising campaign.
He has dedicated the Aug. 30 Cerritos College soccer game to the the two young men. So far, 2,000 people have signed up to attend the game and buy a balloon for $5, Arteaga said.
During open ceremonies, Arteaga will have the families of Ornelas and Valencia on the field, where the team will present their mothers with flowers. The men’s younger brothers will wear their jerseys during the game. After the game, the audience will release the balloons in a memorial to Valencia and Ornelas.
Because Cerritos has a power-house soccer program, Arteaga has made connections in the media and sports world, he said.
“Fortunately, I’ve been able to use my contacts to garner a lot of attention,” he said.
After the game, DP’s Pizza Pub in La Habra is hosting a party where the jerseys will be raffled off. The restaurant is donating proceeds to the families of Ornelas and Valencia.
The deaths still cause Arteaga to get choked up when he discusses his efforts to help the families.
Cerritos College is an elite program that often plays for the state championship, and the boys spend six days a week working out and practicing, he said.
“You can’t spend that much time with someone and not grow a bond with them,” he said.