'We're just trying to show kindness': Fundraiser planned for family who lost daughter in Uvalde school shooting
Over the years, Esteban Peralez has kept in touch with high school friend Vincent Salazar through social media.
The two attended Elgin's Larkin High School together in the 1990s, but Salazar later moved with his wife to Texas. Social media was an easy way to stay in touch.
But when Peralez read Salazar's post on Wednesday, he was devastated.
"Yesterday we lost our heart our whole world. We love you baby girl Daddy is sorry I wasn't there to protect you when you needed me the most we love you so much fly high my little angel, fly high ..." Salazar posted one day after a gunman shot and killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Salazar's 10-year-old daughter, Layla, was among the victims.
"I lost it," Peralez, who now lives in Roselle, said about reading his friend's post. "I felt God talking to me that I had to do something."
That "something" is a fundraising event scheduled for June 10 to benefit his friend's family. Several DJs have already been confirmed for the event to be held at Mi Vallarta restaurant, 1101 N. La Fox St. in South Elgin.
"He's just a good friend of mine from high school, and I want to help out," Peralez said. "We're just trying to show kindness. I believe we need that right now with everything that's going on."
He said the fundraiser is a way for the Elgin-area community to get together and "help an old friend."
According to Peralez, Salazar and his wife, Melinda Alejandro Salazar, moved from Elgin to Texas in 2011. The couple, who also have two older sons, still have family and friends in the Elgin area who are grieving the loss of a young life taken too soon.
"It's heartbreaking," said Abraham Perez, who lives in Elgin and is a first cousin of Layla's mother. "Words can't explain all the devastation and emotion ... we're just trying to be here for each other right now."
Perez, whose family has lived in the Elgin area for four generations, said he reached out to his cousin after the shooting, and she sent a message back saying, "It feels like a bad dream."
"Something needs to change," Perez said Thursday when asked about the shooting. "You don't realize ... until it's close to home, and it's just a wake-up call about the reality of the world that we're living in today.
"I just feel saddened because, again, something like this happened in the nation, and it doesn't seem to get any better. People can say this or that. 'There was something more that could've been done.' But at this point, it's too late and we'll have to live with that tragedy."
Vincent Salazar told The Associated Press that his daughter loved to swim and to dance to TikTok videos. When Layla won six races at the school's field day, Salazar proudly posted a photo on Facebook of his daughter displaying two of her ribbons.
Father and daughter would regularly sing along to Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine" as he drove her to school each morning.
"She was just a whole lot of fun," Salazar told The Associated Press.
Peralez said many in the Elgin community want to help.
"We're overwhelmed with how many people are volunteering," he said, adding one person donated a television and others are donating baskets to raffle or auction at the fundraiser.
Perez said he is grateful for everyone who has reached out to help the family.
"I appreciate everyone who is showing concern and support," he said.
Perez said people also can donate to a GoFundMe account that has been set up to help the Salazar family; search for "Layla Salazar our Angel in Heaven."