Every day—whether it's good or bad—Leigh Ann Gilmore reaches for her cell phone to call her friend to share girl talk. But she has to stop herself because Mara is no longer here, at least in body.
And in honor of her good friend, she is hosting a fundraiser Sunday at Endless Food and Fun in Huntington Beach to help the , John, Hannah and Jonathan. The event, which begins at noon, will feature food and fun, including laser tag and karaoke, at the 40,000-square-foot venue. The restaurant is donating a portion of the proceeds to the Steves family, according to Gilmore. The cost is $20, which includes a buffet lunch, a game of laser tag and a $5 arcade game card.
"People can just come and eat, have fun and blow off steam by playing the games," said Gilmore, who met Steves in 2007 in Los Angeles on the set of an Eddie Murphy movie that their children were filming called Imagine That. Gilmore has two sons, Trevor, 14, and Mitchell, 17. Jonathan and Trevor were extras in the film.
Steves, 48, was just a few blocks from her home when two SUVs crashed while she was kneeling down, corralling a stray dog. She died at the scene. The accident is under investigation, according to officials.
"I miss her every day," Gilmore said. "We've heard it before, 'She was someone that lit up a room,' but she really did."
All of the kids knew each other prior to the Murphy movie because they met while working on a Nickelodeon pilot called Dance on Sunset that never came to fruition.
"It was going to be like an American Bandstand for younger kids," Gilmore said. "They all got along really well and still remain good friends."
Jonathan and Trevor attend Orange County High School of the Arts.
Gilmore said that the Steves family members are doing as well as can be expected but that they still miss Mara tremendously.
"John struggles with being the only parent now because he used to go to work, come home, have dinner on the table for him and do the family thing," she said. "It was Mara who would go to the market every day and make sure dinner was ready. She loved doing that. He just wants to be a great parent to his kids, and he is doing a wonderful job under the circumstances."
Gilmore, whose family lives in Huntington Beach, said she talks to John frequently and tries to visit as much as possible. She is an advocate for survivors of crime and runs her own business. Her husband, Paul, is a sergeant for O.C. Sheriff's Department.
Gilmore said she was driving home from Northern California when she received the news about Mara.
"My son called and said, 'Mommy, something is wrong with Mara,' " she recalled. "I asked, 'what?' He said, 'I think she is dead.' Like most people, I went into denial and couldn't believe it. I just kept asking, 'Why Mara? Why Mara?' I still do."
She said that as soon as she returned to Orange County, she drove to the Steves home.
"Since then, we've had Valentine's Day, which was Mara's favorite holiday, Hannah and Jonathan's birthdays, and a Mother's Day, which was a tough day for all of her friends who are moms," she said. "I want to step up and do something. She would do it for me if the tables were turned. I want John to be able to take the time he needs to grieve and take care of his family without having to worry about going back to work."
Gilmore added that John is still amazed and in awe of the outpouring of love and support that they have received since Mara died more than three months ago.
"I told him that it's because of Mara; she paved the way," she said. "It was because of Mara's tremendous love for her family that people want to help."
If you want to make a contribution, make checks out to John Steves and mail them to Endless Food and Fun, c/o Keeli Lisack, 7227 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach, CA 92647.