Standing near the gun club's smoky barbecue around 11:30 a.m., club treasurer Leo Rodriguez explained why Juarez & Lincoln members pitched in.
"Her dad was one of our classmates and we try to help everyone we can. Sometimes we pitch in with work, not moneywise. In this case we said, ‘We'll buy the food,'" he said.
A good number of the J&L members, and Gomez, graduated from Calexico High School in 1969.
Club president Danny Buelna said even though the fund raiser was put together at the last minute, all the tickets were sold and a good amount of money was raised for the family.
Inside the gun club's recreation center, Sonia Gomez, her uncle Hector De Leon, his mother, Matilda De Leon, and family friend Humberto Felix, all of Calexico, worked to make the carne asada plates after club member Jesse Solano brought in the meat from the grill.
Everyone volunteered their time for the Gomez family and Sonia, 3 years old when her father died, is grateful for all the love and support.
"The memorial is in Sacramento's Capitol Park and we didn't know how we were going to get up there," she said.
A generous contribution from the El Centro Firefighters' Association helped cover travel expenses to get the family to Sacramento and the money from the J&L fund raiser will help with expenses while they are there.
"Even after I told the (J&L guys) about the donation from the El Centro firefighters they went ahead with the fund raiser. I can't believe it. All this to get us up there. We're very, very blessed. Not only are we going to get to go we're going to have this beautiful memory of a lot of people supporting us. It shows me exactly how my dad was that they would remember him like this," she said.
In 1976 El Centro Firefighter David Gomez died after saving the life of a man who had been knocked unconscious while working inside a 10,000-gallon underground gas tank.
He was able to push the man to safety but doing so cost him his life. Gomez sucked in noxious gasoline fumes while pushing the man through the narrow opening of the tank. Gomez was 25 when he died.
The memorial in Sacramento recognizes more than 850 Californian firefighters who gave their lives to protect others.
>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or firstname.lastname@example.org