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Marine Toys for Tots surprises Mesa drive-by shooting victims with Christmas gifts

Marine Toys for Tots surprises Mesa drive-by shooting victims with Christmas gifts
Posted at 5:14 PM, Dec 23, 2020

MESA, AZ — It’s been two months since a family lost their baby boy in a drive-by shooting in Mesa.

The family says the pain has been unbearable. “He was going to turn two on Saturday, we shared the same birthday,” said Gisela Aviña, Sebastian’s mother.

This Christmas is their first without Sebastian, but they made sure to have a Christmas tree for him just in front of his altar at home.

What they didn’t expect was to get a visit by four U.S. Marines with a box full of donated toys for their children this morning.

An act of kindness that gave them a reason to smile, but also, a bittersweet moment.

“Thank you for giving my kids a moment of joy. We know the kids will like the gifts. We’re sad at the same time thinking that my boy would have been happy too, but sadly he’s no longer here,” expressed Gerardo Duran, Sebastian’s father.

Baby Sebastian was killed in a drive-by shooting while the family attended a food truck event in Mesa two months ago.

A suspect was arrested, but the pain remains, says Sebastian’s mother. “It was the most horrible year of my life.”

Two of their other children were injured too. The youngest survivor is Citlali Duran who woke up just in time this morning to receive the gifts from the U.S. Marines.

Marine Toys for Tots surprises Mesa drive-by shooting victims with Christmas gifts

The Marine Toys for Tots program has been delivering toys for children during Christmas since 1947. But this time the delivery hit close to home.

“All of us, we’re parents. I can only imagine the pain that they’re going through. When we found out about the situation, we immediately took action, we wanted to help them, to give them something to be happy about,” said Sergeant Santiago Arias.

He says as heartbreaking as their mission is on days like today, they will always be there for the community.

“We’re really happy that they accepted and took us into their home and that they realized that the marines are there to help.”

The U.S. Marines were welcomed to get closer to the Christmas tree placed in the home’s porch, right in front of Sebastian’s altar.

The toys were dropped under a Christmas tree waiting for the siblings to open them on Christmas day. Baby Sebastian will take care of them until then.

The family is asking the community to continue calling Mesa police with any information about the drive-by shooting that shook their lives.

If you have any information regarding this case call 480-948-6377.