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Family needs more money for funerals

The New Port Richey family grieving the loss of two children needs money to pay for a joint funeral, said the director of the summer program the children were attending.

Kristin Kirtley, 7, and her brother Robert "Bobby" Wilder Jr., 4, died early Tuesday morning in an auto accident on Interstate 75 in Georgia. Their funeral _ scheduled for 11:40 a.m. Monday at Family Funeral Care in Hudson _ and burials will cost 26-year-old Stephanie and Robert Wilder Sr., 24, several thousand dollars, said Paul Santiago of the Cedarview Learning Center.

For a family whose children attended Cedarview's summer program on tuition subsidized by the government, that's more than they can afford.

"They wouldn't ask for the help if they didn't need it," Santiago said Thursday.

Robert Wilder's brother, 18-year-old Adam Wilder, was driving the 1992 Ford Escort headed north to Chicago to visit the children's grandmother for her birthday. All three were wearing seat belts when the accident happened about 3 a.m. Tuesday. Both children were in the back seat.

"Because of the age of the children and the fact that they were asleep, it looks like the seat belt probably slid above their hip," said Cpt. R.H. Murphey, of the Morrow Police Department in Georgia.

Adam Wilder remains in critical but stable condition at Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale, Ga. On Thursday, family members said he had extensive leg injuries, and doctors doubt he will walk again.

So far, news of the children's deaths has drawn significant public support. On Thursday alone, Santiago said more than $1,000 had been collected for the family. One woman walked into Cedarview with $100 for the family; another man drove from Tampa to drop off a donation.

"I am just ecstatic," Santiago said. "I am so amazed by the community support."

To help

The family needs to raise a couple of thousand more dollars by Sunday to cover funeral costs. Checks made payable to Stephanie Wilder can be dropped off or mailed to Cedarview Learning Center, 5398 School Road, New Port Richey, FL 34652. Paul Santiago of the Cedarview Learning Center can be reached at (727) 817-0515.