Deputies throw surprise birthday party for child critically injured in crash

Eugenie "Gigi" Lara had been critically injured in an automobile crash on Aug. 27.

OAKLAND PARK, Fla. — A Florida girl critically injured in an automobile accident did not have a birthday party because she was recovering in the hospital. But deputies in South Florida ensured that while the girl’s 11th birthday was celebrated late, it would still be memorable.

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The surprise party for Eugenie “Gigi” Lara on Nov. 16 was orchestrated by the Oakland Park District of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

According to a news release from the sheriff’s office, Lara was injured on Aug. 27 when she was struck head-on by a vehicle in Oakland Park while driving to church with her mother.

“I remember I said, ‘Please just save her,’” Lara’s mother, Jessica Aguirre, said in the release. “I don’t care about me, I just care about my daughter.”

The child underwent eight surgeries over the past three months and had to learn to walk again, the sheriff’s office said.

Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Mercado was one of the first responders at the scene. The father of four daughters, the deputy said there were many parallels between his girls and Lara.

“I saw a lot of similarities between Gigi and my children,” Mercado said. “When I went to the scene all I saw were my children in that car seat.”

Mercado and fellow deputy Zaida Rojas-Bello planned a surprise party for the girl, complete with presents, balloons and cake. Oakland Park Fire Rescue and numerous community members also pitched in to plan the birthday bash.

Aguirre brought her daughter to the sheriff’s office district headquarters in Oakland Park on Nov. 16, and Lara got to celebrate her birthday in style.

Lara still has a long road ahead to recover, but the gesture by the sheriff’s office brightened her day.

“That day that I responded to their crash, I wasn’t supposed to be at work. I just happened to be working overtime that evening,” Mercado said. “I want them to know that there are individuals out there who care, I am one of them and BSO is one of them. They are both a part of my family now.”

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