Featured Image : Gigi’s belated Birthday Party attendees pose for a photo with her and her mom.
Deputy Mercado and a Connection that Goes Beyond the Line of Duty
Deputy Mercado, a motorman with BSO since September 2019, encounters tragic car accidents regularly in the line of duty. However, it was the surprising similarities between Eugenie and his own daughter that drew him to the scene of this particular tragedy.
With four daughters of his own, Mercado could empathize with the wide spectrum of emotions that overwhelmed Jessica Aguirre, the mother who sustained a fractured arm and various lacerations, after her daughter Eugenie endured a broken back in the collision. Mercado shares, “I felt what the mother felt – the anger, the sadness, the disappointment – the broad range of emotions. It was very close to my heart, and we do see this all the time, but I just felt … that I needed to reach out to them. And I did.”
He continues, “This is not me in uniform – this is me and my heart and a connection I felt to them.”
The first contact Mercado made with Jessica Aguirre was emotional for both parties. Mercado says he reassured her, sharing his own experiences as a parent and urging her to stay strong for Eugenie. This initial connection laid the foundation for a series of heartfelt efforts, both from Mercado and the community at large, to provide support and relief for the mother and daughter.
A Belated Birthday Celebration for Gigi
Mercado’s dedication goes beyond emotional support. He was actively involved in organizing a belated birthday celebration for Eugenie, whose 11th birthday on October 3rd was unfortunately eclipsed by the aftermath of the accident.
The party, held on November 16th at BSO’s Oakland Park substation, was truly a community effort powered by love. Deputy Zaida Rojas-Bello, BSO’s community liaison for Oakland Park, assisted Deputy Mercado in planning the event. Pinho’s Bakery, Downtown Pizza, several members of Oakland Park Kiwanis, Jan McLane and her quilting club, Commissioner Letitia Newbold, our own editor and local board certified REALTOR®, Desiree Avila, BSO Captain Ana Murillo-Quigley, numerous other deputies, BSO staff, Oakland Park Fire Rescue’s first responders, Broward Meat and Fish, MorningDay, Calvary Chapel, BSO Pompano Beach NST and BSO Tamarac NST all jumped in to help make sure the festivities were a success.
When Gigi arrived at the station with her mom and the room full of people shouted “Surprise!” Gigi was speechless. That was only the first surprise. She beamed from ear to ear when she learned that she had been given 4 tickets to go to Legoland and when she opened her brand new Nintendo Switch.
By all accounts, the party was a huge success.
Ongoing Fundraising for Medical Bills
With a genuine desire to bring joy to the young girl’s life, while helping her recover from her injuries, Deputy Mercado has spread awareness about this tragedy. BSO’s social media team, and the Neighborhood Support Team (NST) have contributed generous efforts to raise money and charitable donations for Aguirre and her daughter.
Recognizing the financial strain on the family due to the other driver’s lack of insurance, Mercado even initiated a GoFundMe campaign to assist with the mounting medical bills, the first of which was $200K.
Mercado explains, “What happened to them was unfair. I want her [Gigi] to know that there are people out there who support her and want to be there.”
His efforts to raise awareness have also landed the family an appearance on Telemundo. The increased media coverage of this incident will hopefully help the family obtain even more help, as in this time of recovery their need is truly great.
On the Road to Recovery
The journey to recovery for Gigi has been challenging, but like Mercado says, “Kids are resilient. They always bounce back.” The young girl has undergone over eight surgeries due to her back being broken in the collision. Despite the physical and emotional toll, Eugenie is showing remarkable strength, defying the odds by continuing on the path to recovery.
Mercado explains, “When I met with them for the second time I was shocked by the strength of a child. She is able to walk… but needs assistance with a belt in case she slips or falls. But she’s getting better every day, one day at a time.”
As Gigi and her mother continue getting better, there is no doubt that Mercado, BSO, and the Oakland Park community will be by their side.
Mercado’s Message of Faith and Hope
“Always have faith and hope in times of tragedy,” Deputy Mercado wants people to know “That’s what’s going to pull us together. We are complete strangers, and something drew me to them, and I want to do everything I can to help.”
In the midst of adversity, the story of Deputy Mercado, Jessica Aguirre, and Eugenie “Gigi” Lara, paints a picture of resilience, compassion, and the unwavering strength found right here in Oakland Park.
If you’d like to donate to help the Aguirres with medical bills please visit the GoFundMe link.