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Love Over Hate tribute for East High School student killed in hit-and-run

DES MOINES, IOWA — A fundraiser benefit event in honor of 14-year-old Ema Cardenas was held on Saturday.

Cardenas was killed in a hit-and-run on April 28, 2022. Her family has had a difficult last several months, grieving the loss of their daughter, dealing with expenses related to the accident and Ema’s mom was put out of a job.

The name of the fundraiser was “Love Not Hate” in honor of Ema, who was always positive, according to her family. The event featured food for $10 a plate, raffle prizes and music at the American Legion in Des Moines. All of the proceeds are going to Ema Cardenas’ family.

“Ema was a loving and caring person. She always helped people, liked to help people,” said Anna Campos, Ema’s mother. “And for a change someone is helping us. We have always been a family of helping other family members in need, and people are repaying us.”

The Cardenas’ family is starting a scholarship fund with some of the donated dollars in honor of Ema. The event ran from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. and almost immediately the dining hall at American Legion was filled with people.

“This is helping with my healing,” said Campos. “Things like this when we know that we are loved, it just brings you know, happiness.”

The Cardenas family wants to make sure that their tragedy benefits other families in the community.

“What we are doing with the city council and changing the school zone and University Avenue. Ema wasn’t the first kid on University Avenue that passed away so my thing I always teach my girls to defend themselves, defend others and never be a victim. So this is just us pushing through honestly. Practice what I preach to my girls.”

The Cardenas family expected over 200 people to attend the fundraiser.

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