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Shooting victim's friend raises funds

Milton teen hit six times, remains hospitalized, paralyzed
Milton resident Marlon Martinez-Hernandez, 14, is fighting for his life after a Nov. 24 shooting left him paralyzed. His friend Hannah Bieler and her mother Pamela Aquilani are hoping to raise funds to cover some of his medical expenses through an online campaign. SOURCE SUBMITTED
December 24, 2014

Every day since the beginning of the school year, Marlon Martinez-Hernandez walked a quarter of a mile out of his way to take classmate Hannah Bieler to and from her bus stop in Milton.

When Marlon didn't show up one Monday morning, Hannah wondered why. When she got to her bus, she found out Marlon's older brother, Chico Martinez-Hernandez, had been shot outside their Park Royal Apartments home.

She texted Marlon to see if he was ok. He didn't respond. She later learned Marlon also had been shot.

“I was numb,” the 14-year-old said. “I went into shock, I think. It was really scary.”

Hannah's mother, Pamela Aquilani, said Marlon had become close with her family in recent months, hanging out in the living room waiting for Hannah to walk her to her bus stop. The two teens are both freshmen at Cape Henlopen High School.

“He's just an awesome kid,” Aquilani said.

Now Aquilani and her daughter are hoping to raise funds for his medical care. On Dec. 22, they started an online fundraiser at www.giveforward.com, and are hoping the local community will help support the family's needs.

“All of Cape was devastated when they found this out,” Hannah said. “I saw the worry and the sympathy from everyone that I wouldn't expect from some people. I just hope that more people notice the fundraiser and we can get $10,000 raised quickly.”

In addition to the online campaign, Hannah is asking the Cape Henlopen school board to approve an in-school fundraiser to raise money and solicit local businesses for donations for a Chinese auction.

Aquilani said she knows people are busy with the holidays, but the fundraising efforts send a message that needs to be heard.

“It's so sad to watch your child see their friend like that,” she said, adding that her heart goes out to Marlon's mother, Olivia Hernandez, who has not left his side.

“I can't imagine what she's going through. She's a strong woman,” Aquilani said. “I want people to know that no amount is too small to give.”

Since the last time Marlon walked Hannah to her bus stop, Thanksgiving and Christmas have come and gone, and Marlon is still fighting for his life.

Marlon, who is paralyzed and remains hospitalized after the Nov. 24 shooting, doesn't know yet that his 20-year-old brother was killed that night, Aquilani said. But with what strength he had immediately following the shooting, as he sat in a parked car outside their Park Royal Apartments home in the dark and rain, he gave some information that police say have led to the arrest of a suspect.

While Carlos Juan Feliciano-Concepcion is being held without bail as the only suspect in the shooting, friends and supporters of the Martinez family are banding together to do what they can for the grieving family.

Marlon suffered six gunshot wounds that night, Aquilani said, one of which affected his spine and has left him paralyzed. He also suffered a stroke, she said, and is in a coma-like state. Although he cannot speak and is on a ventilator, his mother has discovered a way to communicate.

She places a finger in Marlon's mouth and he will bite down as his way of saying “yes.” When Hannah finally had a chance to visit him at the hospital last week, he bit his mother's finger to signal he was ready for his visitor.

“I went in and I didn't know what to do. He had a breathing tube in his throat, there were lots of machines and lots of beeping,” Hannah said. “But he could hear me. He knew I was talking to him, so I just had a normal conversation like I would if he came to the house – updates on school, how much I miss him, how much everyone missed him.”

Hannah said she couldn't help but to step up with a campaign to raise funds for all of Marlon's treatments.

“I feel like people should realize how severe this is and how sad a lot of people are about it,” she said. “By spreading this fundraiser, more people will realize how appreciated their efforts are.”

To donate, go to www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/52v6/-supportmarlon or email Aquilani at pamelaaquilani@live.com.