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Salt Lake community comes together to help family of 6-year-old killed while crossing the street

Published: Friday, March 23 2012 7:05 p.m. MDT

First-grader Andrea Buena paints a rainbow with watercolors on Friday, March 23, 2012, for the funeral of Ambrosia Amalatitoda, her classmate who recently died after being struck by a car while walking home from school, at Whittier Elementary School in Salt Lake City.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Students and faculty at Whittier Elementary School are heartbroken by the loss of 6-year-old Ambrosia Amalatitoda .

The little girl was hit while crossing State Street at about 1500 South on March 14, and died the next day. As a way to help students deal with the tragedy the school organized a donation drive for her funeral expenses Friday.

“The students, when they have a tragedy like this occur, they really don’t know what to do,” said Margery Parker, principal of Whittier. “When we give them a chance to participate and give a little bit of what they have for someone else who’s in need, they really feel empowered.”

On a cart, a picture of Ambrosia is surrounded by signs of caring along with buckets of spare change and envelopes filled with dollar bills. Dozens of her classmates came forward with money from their piggy banks and their pocket change to help Ambrosia's family. Parents, teachers, and students donated more than $1,000.

“We’re amazed at how much money came in,” said PTA President Sierra Fichialos, “because a lot of them don’t have a lot of money.”

Classmates also painted rainbows in memory of Ambrosia. "She would always play really fun games with me and with other people,” said classmate Tobias Babcock. "She always learned her stuff so fast and I called her a smarty pants," said Asia Rojas, another classmate.

Camille Luce was Ambrosia’s first-grade teacher and had been tutoring Ambrosia in reading. She said the little girl had hit a major milestone Ambrosia’s mother, Natalie Randall, was so happy for her girl that they were on their way to the Chinese market to get a reward when they were struck while crossing the street. Luce saw Ambrosia and her mother off the day of the accident.

“I feel like I lost a daughter,” said an emotional Luce. "I'm just going to miss her spirit.”

Returning to school after hearing about the tragedy was hard for Luce and her students, but they are slowly healing.

"They keep coming up and saying 'I think Ambrosia's an angel now. I think she's in heaven,'" Luce said. “And I just say that's a beautiful thought."

Ambrosia's funeral will be held Saturday. Her mother is still being treated for her injuries, but will be able to attend.

The crosswalk where the accident happened is set to get a traffic light sometime this summer.

E-mail: manderson@desnews.com

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