Maria Sotelo is accustomed to helping grieving families, but this situation has evoked even more compassion than most situations.


Sotelo, who co-owns High Desert Monuments in Hesperia with her husband, is donating a gravestone to the family of 7-year-old Sarah Elizabeth Alvarado. The Victorville girl died during lunch at school on April 5 when she either choked on a hot dog or suffered a seizure.


"He just lost his job," Sotelo said about the girl's father. "It's horrible."


Besides donating the gravestone, Sotelo is working with Victor Valley Mortuary & Memorial Park to help the family defray funeral expenses. As a result, the funeral director has reduced its price for mortuary and funeral services from $14,000 to $5,000.


"They're really helping us,"Sotelo said.


But she wants to do even more to help the family.


"We're trying to raise $5,000."


So Sotelo is raffling two granite urns worth about $1,500 each and a four-tier cake. The urns will come with custom engraving as needed.


In recent years, Sotelo has created sugar-free cakes for special occasions, and the response has been extremely enthusiastic, she said. The winner of the cake, which she said is worth between $800 and $900, can have it made when needed. And it can be either one large four-tier cake or four separate cakes for different occasions.


"The filling is fresh fruit," Sotelo said. "It's sugar free. Everything in it is fresh. There's no extra sugar. The winner can have a taste test. We can do everything from vanilla to chocolate cake, red velvet to carrot cake. And they can have any kind of filling that they like."


Raffle tickets are $50 each. Sotelo will hold the raffle on Friday, the day of the girl's funeral. Those who purchase raffle tickets don't have to be present, she said.


"All the money goes directly to the family."


Additionally, Sotelo is planning a benefit car wash in the parking lot of her business at the northeast corner of Main Street and E Avenue on Sunday, April 17.


"This family really needs some help. I'm trying to do my very best. The mother is distraught, totally. It's a nightmare for the family. It's horrible."


For more information on the raffle, call Maria Sotelo at (760) 217-4292 or email her at highdesertmonuments@yahoo.com.