Gina DeJesus and family celebrate at Cleveland's Puerto Rican Parade 2013
Stephanie Ramirez, newsnet5.com
10:49 PM, Aug 4, 2013
8:23 AM, Aug 5, 2013
CLEVELAND - Sunday marked Cleveland's 45th annual Puerto Rican Parade -- a celebration of culture and heritage in the city.
But this year, perhaps the most exciting part for many parade-goers was seeing Gina DeJesus Sunday as she smiled and proudly waived the Puerto Rican flag down East 9th Street.
For the DeJesus and Ruiz family, it was not only a time to celebrate culture, but a time to re-energize their fight for those missing in the area.
Gina's father Felix DeJesus took the stage Sunday at the Cleveland Municipal Muni Lot.
"I want to tell you Gina, Amanda and Michelle are doing beautiful," he said. "I got to tell you something. Our work is not done. We have more beautiful children out there that need our help."
DeJesus also told the crowd not to let the girls go in vain, referring to his daughter, Amanda and Michelle.
Gina's brother held up a poster as members of the Hispanic organization, Esperanza, read off the names of a few young people missing in the area -- just a few out of 100 missing in the state of Ohio, noted one of the members.
The program came along with the theme of this year's Puerto Rican Parade: "A celebration of renewed hope and community healing."
"We are dedicating this festival to those missing and to the families holding on to hope," organizers wrote.
Executive Director of the Hispanic Alliance in Cleveland and event emcee Juan Molina Crespo said the situation the three women were put through was horrible.
"It was a travesty what happened in our society, in Cleveland and on the west side, and off of 25th and off of Seymour but the reality is, is that it's not a Puerto Rican issue. This is an issue that transcends culture; it transcends ethnicity, language and social status and all these other variables in our society," Crespo said.
"It's just the beginning as more of the world and this local area's starting to become aware of what's going on in this area with the missing children."
On Friday, there were still 95 people in this city missing. Fifty people from the list are children, 45 people are adults and so we still have a lot right here," said Angel Arroyo, a community activist who fought alongside Gina's family for her safe return.
"We've got to keep our eyes and ears open," said Felix DeJesus, before leaving the podium to rejoin his family and celebrate the day's festivities.