BRAWLEY — The 2nd Annual Sneaker Ball hosted by the MAG Coalition on April 18th kicked off National Victim’s Rights Week with recognition of those who helped curtail violence and encouraged our youth toward positive choices.
Martin and Yuli Garza founded MAG (Mothers and Men Against Gangs) in response to their son, Martin “Smashbro” Garza’s, murder on January 6, 2013. The Garzas didn’t want Martin’s death to become just another crime statistic. They wanted to find a positive way to remember him and to keep other young people safe from gang violence. Their journey hasn’t been an easy one, but they are making progress in awakening the community to the gang problems in the Valley and the need for stepped-up prevention.
At the Saturday evening event held at the Brawley Elks’ Club, the MAG Coalition honored several community members for their efforts to help not only the coalition, but young people in general.
Receiving the VIP award for their generosity and big hearts were Juanita and Gabriel Rebollar. Valerie Zills Smith was awarded the MAGnificent Sponsor for her community service. Juanita Salas was presented the Super Women Assisting Girls Award. Ms. Salas serves on numerous boards in the Valley that assist young women. She recently was elected to the IVC Board of Trustees.
Ernie “Mono” Fierro got a long overdue thank you and the Big Brother Award for the years he has spent working with the young men at the north end of the Valley who want to box. Ernie, a former boxer himself, knows the importance of positive activities for young men. He has worked hard to keep his ‘boys’ away from gangs and in school. Mono and his golf cart were a familiar sight for a number of years on the campus of BUHS.
Alex Cardenas and the CASA Board were singled out for their work with our county’s foster children. Their program has now expanded to include the Quechan tribe. In the past 21 years, CASA has been providing shelter for thousands of children and helping them reunite with their families.
The ICGIC (Imperial County Gang Intelligence Coalition) took home the Watch Dog award for their work in trying to eradicate the street gangs that operate in our area. This is a new group; established in 2013 and is non-profit.
Rounding out the awards were two young people, Leonardo Larios and Patsy Jazzlyne Sanchez. They work as volunteers with MAG and help at any time and anywhere they are needed.
The Garza family and their friends are working hard to create a lasting legacy of non-violence in recognition of their son. At the end, all gathered in a group and used their sneakers to help ‘kick violence’ out the door.