ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – On the 4th of July, Snyder residents received heartbreaking news about the loss of 9-year-old Julius “CJ” Rendon. However, that same news made its way to a former Snyder resident living in Midland who took fundraising into her own hands.

KTAB/KRBC’s Noah McKinney reported on CJ’s life and death. In doing so, he spoke with CJ’s older sister Alyssa, who delivered heart-wrenching words on her little brother.

Friday morning, KTAB/KRBC spoke with Monica Villarreal, a former Snyder resident who moved to Midland not too long ago. She said she heard of CJ’s passing at a family funeral, and was immediately filled with emotions she’s known before.

It was two years ago to the day Villarreal lost her son, 14-year-old Mayes, in a boating accident – leaving her family in complete shock.

Battling her emotions, Villarreal began baking to keep her mind off losing her son, inevitably opening an at-home bakery and creating custom cakes. She named her business Peace Love Kake.

Villarreal’s business boomed, leading her to raise funds in an effort to help CJ’s family just days after his passing.

“Watching my kids grieve was just horrible,” Villarreal said. “I just feel really, really bad for that family and I know what they’re gonna go through, so I want to be able to ease some of that burden.”

With one Facebook post on Monday, she garnered more traction than she could have imagined. She made a few phone calls, but the influx of Snyder-area businesses began donating gift cards, night stays in local hotels and meals to sell to raise more funds for CJ’s family.

A very similar situation to the Villarreal’s back in 2020, when the Snyder community rallied around their family in an effort to ease the financial burden of a lost relative.

“The light company doesn’t care if you lost your kid, you know, the electricity can still get shut off and that shouldn’t be something that she has to worry about,” Villarreal explained. “I just want to be able to give her as much money as I can to do what she needs with it and to spend where she needs.”

So far, Villarreal said she has raised roughly $3,500 for CJ’s family and hopes to meet them soon. Not only to give them the funds, but to also give them another shoulder to lean on when the phone calls quit coming in.

“There will be days that she won’t want to cook, days she won’t want to get out of bed,” Villarreal added. “I just want her to be able to not have to worry about money.”