Giving Back

Belmar Sets Up Online Fund, Dedicates $20,000 from Mayor's Ball to Help Families of Girls in Tragic Beach Incident

A make-shift tribute grows on the boardwalk at Ninth 10th Avenue for Mitzi Hernandez, 13, who lost her life in the Belmar surf on June 15, and Emily Gonzalez Perez, 12, who fights for hers.

BELMAR, NJ — A GoFundMe campaign to help the families of the two Belmar girls involved in the tragic swimming incident on June 15 has raised nearly $33,000 — surpassing the $20,000 goal set by Mayor Matthew Doherty.

According to the Belmar Angels online fund established on June 16 by the borough, Doherty announced that $20,000 from the 2017 Mayor’s Ball will be set aside for the families of 13-year-old Mitzi Hernandez, who drowned off the Belmar beach, and Emily Gonzalez Perez, her 12-year-old cousin, who remains on life-support at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune.

Both girls were students at Belmar Elementary School. Hernandez was a sixth-grader, while Gonzalez Perez just completed fifth grade.

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“We’re going to expand our mission this year and fund an effort to raise money for the girls' families,” according to the GoFundMe page, whose initial goal was to match the borough's $20,000 donation from the ball. “They face enormous financial challenges. Join us by donating anything you can through the Belmar Mayor's Ball and together we can support these families.”

The sold-out Mayor’s Ball will be held this upcoming Friday, June 23 at the newly opened Taylor Pavilion, located on Belmar’s Fifth Avenue Beach.

As of 6 a.m. on June 18, $32,372 had been raised from some 331 persons through the Belmar Angels GoFundMe effort, which Doherty called “an amazing outpouring of support” and as a result, he has kept the fund-raising effort open.

“Belmar lost one angel Thursday night and another clings to life at the hospital,” his message on the fund’s page continued. “This is a close-knit school in a small town, so the feeling of loss is impactful and meaningful. Please pray for the families involved, the girl who passed away and the little girl still fighting for her life in the hospital.”

The girls were swimming unsupervised on June 15 on the Belmar beach in the vicinity of Ninth and 10th Avenues, when an emergency call was received by the Belmar Police Department at 6:l9 p.m., for “a distressed person in the ocean,” according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.

A Belmar patrolman and a member of the water rescue team arrived on the scene at 10th and Ocean Avenues, and swam out to rescue Gonzalez Perez, who is fighting for her life at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

At approximately 6:54 p.m., as a search of the area was conducted, Hernandez was located unconscious in the ocean. CPR was administered until first aid arrived and transported the victim to JSUMC, where she was pronounced dead, according to the prosecutor’s office statement.

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