COLLEGE POINT — The close-knit Queens neighborhood of College Point is mourning the death of a 11-year-old boy who was killed in a car crash as his family returned from vacation in Florida last week.
Cristian Malave's death — in an accident that also left his parents and older sisters seriously hurt — shocked the family's Queens community, prompting an outpouring of support and donations.
On Sunday, the College Point Little League is holding a fundraiser for the Malave family.
Ralph Rivera, the league's president, called the family a “staple of the community."
“We just want to extend our support any way we can,” Rivera said.
Cristian died in a head-on crash in Alachua County about 6:20 a.m. March 30, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. His parents, Carlos, 42, and Hilda, 42, and sisters Melissa, 19, and Aly, 14, suffered serious injuries.
The Malaves’ car was struck head-on by Virginia Pagel, who was traveling the wrong way on U.S. 301, the Florida Highway Patrol said. Cristian was pronounced dead, while his family was sent to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, where all four of them have undergone several surgeries and remain hospitalized.
Rivera said he found out about the horrific accident the following day. He called Cristian's death the worst thing the College Point Little League has dealt with since its inception in 1962.
“I don’t cry often, but I was sitting on my steps in tears,” said Rivera, who has been the league’s president for two years. “My wife didn’t know what to say. I think it’s affected the whole community. It’s one of our own, it’s family.”
That same heartbroken community has responded with overwhelming support. Rivera said restaurants along College Point Boulevard quickly donated food for the fundraiser, and his phone hasn’t stopped ringing with people offering their help.
“I’ve received a lot of phone calls thanking me, but I really have to say it’s the neighborhood,” Rivera said. “I’m just opening the door.”
Rivera said Cristian was in the little league’s spring, summer and fall seasons and struck out just three times in 50 games.
“If only our favorite Major League players had those kind of numbers,” Rivera said.
“It was the most hilarious thing you’ll ever see,” he said.
Cristian’s father, Carlos, delivers packages for Federal Express around College Point and his sisters Melissa and Aly are involved in dance.
Through dance classes, Daniel Rinaldi first met the Malave family in 2005 and he became incredibly close over the years.
“I remember when Hilda was pregnant with Cristian and her bringing him around when he was first born,” he said.
When Rinaldi, 25, heard of the accident, he sprung into action, setting up a GoFundMe donation page. He started the page April 1 with the goal of raising $1,000, figuring it might help the family perhaps buy groceries.
In less than two days, the page had donations of more than $10,000. Rinaldi then set a goal of $25,000, which was met — and exceeded — Friday afternoon.
“It was a chain reaction of everyone hearing about it,” Rinaldi said. “It was, ‘That’s the Fed Ex guy, that’s the little girl we saw dancing at that recital the other day.’”
The fundraiser for Cristian Malave's family will be held Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the little league's headquarters. Tickets cost $25.