Belvidere Family Copes With Tragedy; Benefit Saturday

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It's something that makes us proud to live in the Stateline, friends and neighbors pitching in to help someone else involved in a tragedy.

The tragedy involves a Belvidere family and their recovery efforts after being mowed down by a van last month. Friday, a pair of community groups is hosting a benefit to help offset the hospital bills.

It happened on July 3. Anita Martinez, four members of the Avila family, and a friend of the Avila's son were out for an after dinner walk on the 1900 block of Davis Street in Belvidere. Police say a van driven by Kristi Villanueva hit the unfortunate walkers. The accident killed Anita Martinez and sent the others to the hospital.

Three members of the Avila family are now out of the hospital and doing well, but the youngest Avila, seven-year-old Maria, remains at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital.

"She can talk now and move her body a little better," says Anayeli Avila, Maria's sister.

Anayeli Avila is lucky she didn't go on her family's nightly walk the night of July 3. Her parents, younger brother and sister were all struck by a van just one block from their Belvidere apartment. Her seven-year-old sister Maria is just beginning a long road to recovery.

At first it was hard ‘cause all of my family was in the hospital. Now I feel better ‘cause everyone is getting better," Avila says.

But the Martinez family wasn't as lucky. Mother Anita was with the Avila family when she was killed.

"I was in my room and could see the lights of the ambulance and everything I was just wondering what was going on. I didn't expect anything to happen," says Anita's daughter Maribel.

"I was just so sad, angry, mad at what had happened, how something so stupid this lady whoever she is could have something like this happen," says Anita's son Tony.

This is where the van plowed into the victims on that tragic night. Now the children of Anita Martinez say they avoid this street as much as possible.

"Before she hit all these people she ran into a truck, so every time I see that dent on the truck is gives me bad memories."

Parents Armando and Maria Avila have recovered, but still must go to the hospital frequently to visit their daughter Maria. Maria's sister Anayeli says the family is very pleased with her progress.

The Avilas expect Maria to come home September 2, just in time for her eighth birthday the following week.

The woman police say is responsible for the accident is 27-year-old Kristi Villanueva. She was charged with reckless homicide and driving under the influence. Villanueva remains in the Boone County Jail on 200-thousand dollar bond. A status court date is set for Tuesday.

If you would like to help this family, there will be a dance benefit Saturday. All the money will go towards the medical bills. The fundraiser will be held at the Apollo Center on North State Street in Belvidere. It starts at 8 p-m and last till one in the morning.