Albuquerque recently lost Victoria Martens to a senseless, brutal murder. It was Aug. 24 – her 10th birthday.
Friends said she was looking forward to celebrating her birthday the following weekend but, sadly, she did not live to see it. The gut-wrenching details of the murder pulled at heartstrings that could be seen and felt around Albuquerque, including among PNM employees.
As news spread about the murder, one PNM employee was inspired to take action. Erica Smith, statewide stakeholder coordinator, Community and Local Government Relations, never met Victoria, but she wanted to give the little girl the birthday party she deserved.
So she did.
Watch the video below to hear Erica explain how her idea for a small birthday party, with a handful of people, blossomed into a day in which the community came together, helping each other through a devastating loss.
An emotional celebration
The community gathered at Mariposa Basin Park, near Victoria’s home and school, to celebrate her life. Attendees showed up in waves wearing her favorite color, purple. (View photos from the celebration.)
Vendors from all over the city donated custom birthday cakes, pizzas, face painting, jump houses, music, balloons, art supplies, stuffed animals, chairs, tables, water and much more. Characters from Victoria’s favorite movie, Frozen, also greeted and played with children.
There was happiness, mixed with heavy hearts.
Among the thousands of visitors were Mayor Richard J. Berry, police chief Gorden Eden, U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, first responders and Victoria’s school teachers.
A bubble release, a prayer and a candlelight vigil also were held after the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Victoria, the one guest missing from the party.
“Seeing how Erica has united our community makes us all want to be better people,” said Sharon James, senior program developer, PNM Energy Efficiency Programs