By Anne Gibson

It was the first day of February when Erika Blake was driving home at night from a trip to Yuma, anxious to return to Vail to her husband Karsten Blake and their daughter Makaia. As fate would have it, Erika collided with a deer violently rolling her car several times and totaling her vehicle. She was airlifted to a Phoenix hospital where she was evaluated and treated for some of her injuries in the ICU.

According to the “gofundme” account established by Erika’s cousin Rainee Cortez, Erika’s car was totaled. The fund listed her injuries sustain as a mini stroke, fractured C1 and C2 vertebrae, several finger fractures, and deep cuts. Many of her injuries are requiring a long road to recovery with multiple surgeries.

All donations will be used to offset the cost of surgeries, therapies, hospital stays, and follow up appointments, Ms. Cortez stated. The gofundme account may be reached at

“I wanted to start a gofundme account because it is exactly what Erika would do for me,” said Ms. Cortez. “She is an action-oriented person and jumps in to help others any way she can. I can relate to that! I wanted a way for people to help such an incredible and giving person, a way they could make a huge practical impact. In these unpredictable times it is easy to lose our way and be overwhelmed by chaos. This is a way for people to see the light and to make a difference for a family in need,” she continued.

Erika and 15 year old Makaia appeared in the Vail Pride Day video “Dealers in Hope” featuring their experiences with the pandemic and Makaia’s struggles and growth through the Old Vail Middle School Special Education Program. “One of the many reasons we made the decision to move to Arizona was the amazing special education in the Vail School District. We have truly been blessed this past year by the love and attention Makaia has received,” said her father, Karsten. Karsten’s talents as a contract physical therapist will be handy as Erika recuperates from each surgery.

Erika is the niece of Nancy and Calvin Baker also a part of the Vail community. In just moments the lives of Erika, her family, and friends changed with no warning.

Whittley “Anne” Gibson is a third generation Tucsonan and alumni of the University of Arizona. She has been an active community member in the greater Vail area since the late 1970s.

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Anne Gibson