Tracy Talks: Cantu family marks somber birthday
by Anne Marie Fuller
Feb 21, 2014 | 5587 views | 0 0 comments | 155 155 recommendations | email to a friend | print
March 8 would have marked a milestone birthday for Sandra Cantu, who would have turned 13 this year. Instead, the family of the Tracy girl who was kidnapped and murdered in 2009 is planning a communitywide celebration for local children as a way to honor her memory.

On March 7, a Friday, Tracy Celebrates Children will offer a day of free activities for Tracy kids at various places around town. Activities start at 9 a.m. and continue through 8:30 p.m.

“The whole family loves this event,” said Maria Chavez, Sandra’s mom. “Seeing the kids laughing and running around having fun. For me personally, it’s comforting. It’s like Sandra is with us enjoying the day. That’s what it feels like for me.”

Janet Anderson, Sandra’s cousin, is helping organize the event, along with family friend Joyce Shepherd.

“This event is to celebrate the children in the community and honor the memory of Sandra,” Anderson said. “It helps the family that Sandra still continues to live on through the local children. In some ways, the event is bittersweet.”

Some highlights include free classes in gymnastics, dance, taekwondo and yoga. There will also be free fingernail painting and free ice cream and frozen yogurt. Midday, there’s a children’s health and safety fair, at the bowling center, with police and fire personnel. New at the safety fair this year will be animals from Animal Rescue of Tracy and the Tracy Animal Shelter. An entire list of activities can be found at

Since the debut of Tracy Celebrates Children, I have worn my reporter hat to bring the community details of this event. Yet back in 2009, when Sandra went missing, I wore another hat — that of the Community Emergency Response Team — and was part of the original group that helped search for Sandra. I was teamed up with my friend Edwina, also from CERT, and Marin County Search and Rescue. More than 300 people from law enforcement agencies came together to help in the search.

I don’t know if I can accurately express my emotions as we set out to search for Sandra. It was one of the hardest things I have done. We did not find her that day — it would be days later when I got the call that brought me to my knees crying. During the memorial for Sandra, I sat right behind Maria as our community came together to remember and honor her beautiful life.

Tracy Celebrates Children is open to all local children 12 and younger. Children must be accompanied by an adult. More details can be found online at

• Anne Marie Fuller is the host of “Helpful Hints with Anne Marie” on Channel 26. Contact her at

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