To honor Amiir, the only child she and Prince had, Mayte Garcia is coming up with creative methods.
Her son, born in 1996, passed away six days after his birth. Pfeiffer syndrome is a rare genetic condition characterized by the early fusion of several skull bones.
“It’s always painful,” the 49-year-old former dancer says to PEOPLE when reflecting on their child’s brief existence.
“He would have been 27 this year,” she continues. “But I’m on the board [for] Pfeiffer syndrome, and it makes me happy to see that children are surviving it now. There’s so much more research being poured into it. When Amiir died, I couldn’t find anything on it. So yes, it’s painful, but it makes me happy to know that I’m helping someone else.”
Garcia — now mom to 11-year-old daughter Gia, whom she adopted in 2013 — is reviving the charity she and Prince first launched in 1996, under the name L4OA, which originally stood for “Love for Our Amiir.”
The revamped version will be called Live 4 Love Charities, which Garcia says was always Prince’s message.
“I strive to honor what Prince he stood for, which was always about love. So Live 4 Love is kind of the perfect name change,” she says. The foundation is currently working on a “10/10 project,” which will donate $10,000 to 10 different foundations that are nominated by the public through the website. (Winners will be announced in December.)
“The mission statement for the original charity was about helping people in need,” she continues. “Back then we didn’t need fundraising because he was able to donate the money. Live 4 Love will be a public 501C, and we’ll be doing fundraising, and the money raised will go towards all sorts of charitable programs, like music education for children.”
Garcia notes that Prince was always a generous man, though he didn’t make a fuss about his endless philanthropy, preferring instead to donate in private to all manners of foundations — including teaching tech jobs to youth and donating to Trayvon Martin’s family.
“When we divorced, he kept the L4OA foundation going. He was always very secretive about that stuff. I would hear about school and people he would help out when we were together,” Garcia says.
“One time we flew to Hawaii and helped at a children’s hospital. Another time I flew to Puerto Rico and helped at a children’s cancer center, and animal rescue. But he’d keep it quiet.”
Garcia, who also runs the animal rescue foundation Mayte Rescue, says that after Amiir’s death, she and Prince had a hard time staying together in their shared grief — especially after she also experienced a miscarriage two years later.
The couple divorced in 2000, though she says they remained cordial up until his death.
Although Garcia had heard that Prince was not doing well, she still thought about taking her daughter to see him, but she finally decided against it.
She tells PEOPLE, “I kind of felt like he needed somebody, and I regret not going.” “However, I also acknowledge that it was simply his moment. It’s awful. I’ve reached a point where I can think about him with love and a smile on my face, even though you never want to be prepared for someone to leave.”
Garcia goes on, “I think his spirit is still around.” “There was undoubtedly a soul-to-soul bond. He was and will always be a very special individual in my life.