The community is rallying around a family whose toddler died last month after contracting the Escherichia coli bacteria — also known as E. coli — at the San Diego County Fair.
More than $25,000 has been raised for Rebecca and Tony Cabezuela after their 2-year-old boy, Jedidiah King, died June 24 after coming in contact with the animals at the popular fair, officials said.
More than 400 people donated to the family on the crowdfunding website, GoFundMe. Hundreds of people also commented on the website, sharing their condolences.
“I cried when I read about baby Jedidiah. Such a beautiful boy. Heaven’s gain,” wrote James Stewart.
Elaine Allen wrote, “This is a grief like none other.”
Stephen Shewmaker, the board president for the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which oversees the fairgrounds, also commented, stating he was “devastated.”
“My wife Francie and I have taken our three young grandsons to the fair numerous times this year and in years past and their favorite places to visit are the petting zoo and the pony rides,” Shemaker wrote. “I will always think of young Jedi when I visit in years to come.”
Many parents, who said they lost their children, also donated and commented on the GoFundMe campaign.
Robin Comstock wrote her toddler had also died from “E. Coli exposure 6 months ago,” while Ron Stack wrote, “Two years ago our six year old son contracted HUS from E. Coli which he picked up from a petting zoo at a fair. His time in the hospital was agony. Our hearts break for your loss.”
In response to the GoFundMe campaign and comments, Tony and Rebecca Cabezuela wrote, “We are at a loss for words by the amount of love and support the world has shown our baby.”
“We can’t help but smile reading the messages and seeing how kind people can still be,” they wrote. “Thank you all very much, to see us all come together and have so much compassion, we feel as if you all have lost Jedi with us.”
Officials from the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency confirmed at least three other children, who visited the fair’s animal exhibits, also contracted the bacteria. The county also received reports last week of a fifth unconfirmed but probable case of the bacteria in an 11-year-old girl. They believe the bacteria was spread through the animal exhibits from the fair, which typically attracts more than 1.5 million visitors.
People can avoid contracting the bacteria by thoroughly washing their hands after making contact with animals at places like farms, petting zoos and fair exhibits. Young children, older adults and people with weak immune systems are at particular risk, according to health officials. Residents should promptly call their doctor if they believe they have contracted E. coli.
–City News Service contributed to this report