by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — Though the family of Loretta Jo Gates couldn't have what they ultimately wanted, Saturday's fundraiser for the children of the murdered Falls woman accomplished exactly what it set out to do.
About 500 baskets were raffled off and hundreds of community members packed a conference room at the Sheraton at the Falls Saturday, bringing needed dollars to help ensure the children will have something to look forward to.
"This makes me feel good," Loretta's mother, Tammy Gates, said. "I'd feel a lot better if she were here, but to have all of our friends and family here for this is great."
Loretta Gates, a 30-year-old Falls woman, is believed to have been murdered and dismembered in late August or early September. Her family, dealing with the grief, channeled their energies into hosting the fundraiser so her children wouldn't be without some form of support.
Her sister, Lisa Gates, said the money is being set up in a trust fund for each of them. The family is hoping Kyla, 11, Mariah, 5, and Peter, 4, will be taken care of thanks to the generosity of countless strangers who filed through the doors for a bite to eat and a chance to win a number of prizes.
"It makes you feel good," Lisa Gates said. "It's nice to know there are a lot of people out there who want to help these children. I didn't think this many people would show up today."
Organizing an event of this size as quickly as they did gave the family something other than tragedy to worry about. Their focus had been on their missing family member. Grief struck each differently and feuds popped up.
But Lisa said coming together for Loretta like they have may have fixed some of the problems they'd seen creeping up around them.
"Everybody said their sorry's," she said. "With everything going on all at once and with everybody grieving, there may have been some issues. But it's all resolved now."
Arthur Gates, Loretta's father, spent much of his Saturday like the rest of his family. He was running around making sure everyone else was operating like the well-oiled machine they needed to be to accommodate the large crowd, sometimes forming a line 10 or 12 deep just to purchase raffle tickets and door prize entries.
He, too, was shocked at the turnout of people who took notice of his family and the struggles they'd have for years and was thankful for the bit of relief they were able to secure Saturday.
"It's just unreal," he said. "For this number of kind-hearted people to come out like this is really something. Thank you, everyone."