Community members in Ansonia have raised thousands of dollars for the families of two 6-year-old girls who lost their lives in separate car accidents days apart.
Nyah Marcano, a student at the Prendergast School, died Aug. 18 when she was thrown from an SUV that rolled over on Route 8 in Shelton and tumbled down an embankment.
Two days later, Leah Rondon, who studied at the John C. Mead School, was struck by a car while playing at her friend's house in Ansonia. She died at the hospital.
"Two times in one week. It's really shocking and it just tears the community apart," said Ansonia resident Kim Higgins, who knew Leah from summer camp and whose daughter was friends with Nyah.
Those affected by the twin tragedies gathered at a benefit dinner for the families of the two young victims Thursday evening, raising $4,876 as of about 8:30 p.m., according to the event organizers.
A separate fundraiser – the sale of blue balloons to be tied outside homes across town Saturday evening – has raised $3,500 so far.
"Their smiles were infectious, and I can just see them right now hopefully overlooking and seeing how Ansonia has come out for them," said Ansonia superintendent Dr. Carol Merlone.
Henry Rondon, Leah's father, said Ansonia is a "small town but extremely supportive" and that community members "really have come to the rescue for us."
"Every time I turn around, somebody is there to say, 'What can I do?' and 'How can I help?'" said Leah's mother, Colleen Rondon. "We will spend a lifetime paying it forward."
The efforts continue this weekend, when Ansonia plans to go blue for Leah and Nyah. Community members are selling balloons at Ansonia High School, as well as the Mead and Pendergast schools.
"It’s $5 apiece. You hand them out to all of the people’s mailboxes all throughout the city," said Cassetti.
The balloons will be displayed around town between 6 and 8 p.m. Saturday and can be purchased until then.
All proceeds will benefit the families of Leah and Nyah.