ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — "She had the biggest heart," said Lauri Wierzbicki apologizing for her tears as she remembers her 22-year-old daughter Rachael. "She was beautiful...inside and out."
"We're still reeling," admitted Rachael's father, Mark. "You still have days...I don't think this will ever be done for us."
On November 27, Rachael was murdered outside a home on Edson Street in Buffalo. The man accused of shooting and killing her is Shane Casado. Casado was her ex-boyfriend. His murder trial is now set for August 12.
The Wierzbicki's wanted to talk to 2 On Your Side, but not about Casado or the case against him. They say their reason for speaking out now is to raise money and awareness about domestic violence through their new non-profit, Rachael's Warrior Foundation.
Lauri said this is something Rachael would have wanted, "She was always there for everybody. The minute you met her, you just fell in love with her. You could feel it. She wanted nothing more than to be your friend, and 'How can I help you.' "
They got the idea for the non-profit after seeing dozens of donations pour into the Family Justice Center following Rachael's death. They had asked that donations be made there in their daughter's name.
Mark explained what they hope to achieve through the new foundation, "We're collecting money and we're trying to redistribute it to people who need it, and maybe help folks who maybe just need to know...there's somebody out there that's going to help you."
Mark added, "I'd really like it to be about...let's get them out before anybody becomes a victim."
They've already raised hundreds of dollars through the sale of Rachael's Warriors t-shirts, an effort spearheaded by Rachael's friends and co-workers.
"I don't think we could have ever gotten through this process without our family, faith, and friends," admitted Lauri.
Already they were able to help someone with the funds raised. They donated to Jessica Cameron, who was set on fire in December in a domestic violence incident outside a Tim Hortons in the City of Tonawanda.
Now, they're in the middle of planning a big fundraiser, scheduled for Sunday, June 2, the day before what would have been Rachael's 23rd birthday.
"I knew she was going to do something great with her life. She was going to be extraordinary," said Lauri of her daughter's can-do attitude. "I feel her guiding me through this process because she would want...to help everybody. Now, she's going to do all of that help through this warrior foundation. She will. And her legacy will live on."
The fundraising event is on Sunday, June 2, at Wings Meeting Place on California Road in Orchard Park from 1-5pm.
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