HOUSTON — Dozens gathered at Sunnyside Park Saturday afternoon for a birthday party for Maleah Davis.
Maleah would have been 5 years old on Thursday, but this year is the first year her family had to celebrate without her.
There were balloons and bubbles, sunshine and singing -- everything you’d want at a 5-year-old’s birthday party. The only thing missing from this one was the birthday girl herself.
“If she was alive, we’d celebrate it, and now that she’s in Heaven, we still celebrate it," said Charlie Mae Green, Maleah's great-great-grandmother.
Green said it’s a heavy day, but also an important one.
“I'm going to always miss her, but I know she’s in a better place," Green said.
At just 4 years old, Maleah had already suffered more than most do in their lifetime. Her body found on the side of the road in Arkansas last May. Her stepfather, Derion Vence, is charged with tampering with a corpse and injury to a child/serious bodily injury in her disappearance.
“I just want justice for Maleah," Green said.
The park was full of pink, Maleah’s favorite color, packed with family, friends and even complete strangers, all to wish one little girl happy birthday.
“She didn’t even have a chance. Four years old, only four years on the planet. She’s gone," one attendee said. “So I was compelled to come and walk and support the family in any way I could.”
It’s a party they’ll always plan to attend.
“We don’t ever want to forget. There are certain stories throughout our years that definitely touch our hearts, and this is definitely one of them. It touched the nation, and so to make sure she’s honored traditionally every year, absolutely, this should continue," Partick Broadway said.
“It’s a Maleah story, but it's for all children. But it’s about all the children, and about how we have to keep our children safe and protect them at all costs," an attendee said.
Her father posted on Instagram the following message on her birthday: "Happy Birthday Leah I still dont have words for this, so i'll keep it short and say I will love you forever you will live forever threw me, I still cant believe this situation we are in" #LongLiveMaleahLynnDavis"
MORE ON MALEAH DAVIS
- Maleah Davis Memorial Bridge named in Arkansas near where child's body was found
- Court docs shed new light on what happened to Maleah Davis before she died
- Maleah Davis update: Grand jury indicts Derion Vence with tampering with corpse. So, what does this mean?