4-year-old featured in Season for Caring dies from cancer complications

Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez lost his little girl on Thursday morning.

Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez plays with his daughter Emely Rodriguez-Aviles. Kelly West/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez plays with his daughter Emely Rodriguez-Aviles. She died on Thursday.
Kelly West/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Emely, 4, whose mother passed away in August, was diagnosed with leukemia in early December. She quickly developed a respiratory infection and died four weeks later at Dell Children’s Medical Center.

Emely had struggled with several medical conditions throughout her life, but the bright and bubbly girl, who had Down syndrome and loved giving as many hugs as she could to everyone she could, had just entered the Lucy Reed Pre-Kindergarten School and was thriving with the help of her dad and several in-home nurses.

Just before Emely’s diagnosis, Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez, 26, had started to get back on his feet after losing his wife, Adriana, to cervical cancer earlier in the year. He had spent nearly two years taking care of her, while also raising Emely and trying to make enough money as a painter to support them.

The Rodriguez-Lopez family is part of the Austin American-Statesman’s Season for Caring program, which highlights the needs of 12 local families and helps hundreds of other through nonprofit agencies. The Rodriguez-Lopez family was nominated by Hospice Austin.

While Emely was in the hospital, an anonymous family donated enough money to cover Rodriguez-Lopez’ rent for the coming year, as well as a van to replace his car, which needed repairs. He had also received gifts, gift cards and painting supplies from the Butler Bros., a local brand studio.

“We deal with death and dying and bereaved families every day. This is just beyond unfair,” says Melinda Marble, communications coordinator of Hospice Austin. “Jacob has handled himself so beautifully with Adriana’s death. It was so hard for him … When a lot of people would have curled up in a little ball and pulled the covers over his head, he decided to lose weight, to make himself fit, to go back to work. He decided to never cry in front of Emely. He did all this for his little girl.”

In the coming weeks, he will add a photo of Emely next to the one of his wife on the altar he has set up in Emely’s bedroom. Before he started staying at the hospital night after night to be with Emely, he would buy flowers every three days for his wife. Now, he’ll need a bigger vase.

Donations made to Season for Caring in Emely’s honor will go to her funeral expenses and to cover travel expenses for Rodriguez-Lopez’s parents in McAllen to be with him.

“All the people who donated and especially the family who made the anonymous donation will really ease him during this time of grief,” Marble said.  “It takes a little pressure off of him and he can decide how he wants to move forward.”

Emely Rodriguez-Aviles is the second Season for Caring recipient to die since the Season for Caring launched on Nov. 27. Rosalba Martínez-López, a 37-year-old mother of four and grandmother, died Dec. 2 from cervical cancer.

To find out more about the Rodriguez-Lopez family or fulfill one of their needs, contact Hospice Austin, 512-342-4726, hospiceaustin.org.

Season for Caring

It’s not too late to make your Season for Caring donation. Donate now through Jan. 31.

• To make a monetary donation to Season for Caring, send it to P.O. Box 50066, Austin, TX 78763-0066 or go online to statesman.com/season-for-caring-2016/.

• Find more stories, videos and photos of all the families at statesman.com/season-for-caring-2016/ .

• To learn more about making a donation of an item or a service, call 512-445-3590 or email community@statesman.com.

Season for Caring crosses $500,000 mark in donations

When we launched Season for Caring on Nov. 27, we told you about 12 families who had significant needs this year. Theirs were stories of cancer, of loss, of refugees coming to America, of children with rare diseases and of adults with limited mobility. And then we invited you to give. And you have.

In the first 25 days, Season for Caring has raised $379,912.68 in monetary donations and $120,972.96 in in-kind donations of goods and services for a total of $500,385.64.

That number sounds big, but our 12 local nonprofit agency partners need so much more to be able to help more and more families with basic needs such as rent, utilities, transportation, medical care, clothing and food. Season for Caring donations become their emergency fund throughout the year.

New this year is a matching grant of up to $100,000 from the Sheth family through Tuesday. Now is the best time to make your monetary donation at statesman.com/seasonforcaring or clip out the coupon that runs daily in the paper and send in your check to Statesman Season for Caring, P. O. Box 50066, Austin, TX 78763-0066.

This has also been a big week for Season for Caring. Today, Francisco Zuñiga-Echeverria will pick up his new glasses at Northwest Hills Eye Care and get his new hearing aids from Better Hearing Center of Austin. 

On Sunday, we watched as the McGill family was flooded with gifts from Grisham Middle School art and theater students. Read about that on Christmas morning.

We saw the Vasquez Olais family receive Christmas presents from Star Furniture, and next week, they’ll get to pick out furniture for their new apartment.

We caught up with Terry Markland, who now has a motorized wheelchair from National Seating and Mobility.

Friday we’re going to see a used van be delivered to Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez from an anonymous family foundation that also has supplied a year’s worth of rent and utilities.

This week the King family had their house professionally cleaned using Season for Caring donations and New Stone Concepts is measuring the house for new sinks and counters for the kitchen and bathroom.

 

Many families still have many wishes to be met. Read their stories and see if you can grant one of their wishes:

  • Terry Markland, 65, is living in an independent senior center after recently being homeless.  RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
    Terry Markland, 65, is living in an independent senior center after recently being homeless.
    RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

    Terry Markland, 65, has decades-old injuries to his feet and needs knee replacements. Medicare will cover some, but not all, of his recovery. He needs help with utility bills, clothing and transportation to church. To help, call Family Eldercare at 512-450-0844 or visit familyeldercare.org.

  • Ashley McGill and her family’s life forever changed when their car was hit from behind. She is unable to work because of debilitating headaches. She needs a living room sectional, a computer and printer, and help with medical bills, rent and car insurance. To help, call Wonders & Worries at 512-329-5757 or visit wondersandworries.org.
  • Luis Olais, 21, has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which daughter, Delilah, 3, also has. He and his partner, Keila Vasquez, 20, are waiting to hear if their son, 3-month-old Noah, has it as well. It affects connective tissue and joints and limits the kind of work that Olais can do. They need help with rent, child care, laptops and cosmetology school tuition. To help, call SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone) at 512-590-3114 or visit safeaustin.org.
  • Francisco Zuñiga-Echeverria, 28, poses for a portrait in the community garden where he grows vegetables and herbs he uses for cooking at his apartment  complex. Rodolfo Gonzalez AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN
    Francisco Zuñiga-Echeverria, 28, poses for a portrait in the community garden where he grows vegetables and herbs he uses for cooking at his apartment complex. Rodolfo Gonzalez AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

    Francisco Zuñiga-Echeverria, 28, grew up in foster care and was homeless. He would like allergy testing as well as a green moped scooter to get around town, help with school, alert devices for the hearing-impaired, culinary classes and gift cards. To help, call LifeWorks at 512-735-2473 or visit lifeworksaustin.org.Issa Noheli, 61, and his family came to Austin after living for 17 years in refugee camps in Central Africa. He lost his leg in an attack on a camp. He needs a prosthetic leg, but the family of 11 also needs a gently used car, a washer, a dryer, English tutoring and a vacuum cleaner. To help, call Interfaith Action of Central Texas at 512-386-9145 or visit interfaithtexas.org

  • Sheila King, 49, and her family lost her 15-year-old son, Austen, to suicide in July. Two months later, his father, Harrell King, 61, and his grandmother, Janie Chandler, 66, died from cancer. The Kings have many needs, but their largest is home remodeling, appliances, laptops, a gently used car and gift cards to Home Depot. To help, call CareBox Program at 512-296-2180 or visit careboxprogram.org.
  • Maricela Garcia cares for her son Raymond Alejandro Martinez-Garcia, 9,  at their apartment. JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
    Maricela Garcia cares for her son Raymond Alejandro Martinez-Garcia, 9, at their apartment. JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

    Maricela Garcia, 42, is worried that her son Raymond, 9, who has Renpenning syndrome, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, isn’t getting the physical, occupational and speech therapy he needs. She needs car repairs and driving lessons, rent and utilities assistance; pots and pans; sign language lessons and an iPad that Raymond can use to communicate. To help, call Foundation Communities at 512-610-7391 or visit foundcom.org.

  • Liliana De La Paz, 29, and Juan Martínez Domínguez, 28, have two sons with spinal muscular atrophy type 2. Both 9-year-old Juan Diego and 3-year-old Jesús use motorized wheelchairs; Juan Diego is on a ventilator. They need electric blankets, pillows, a high dining room table and chairs, and clothing. To help, call Any Baby Can at 512-454-3743 or visit anybabycan.org.
  • Rosabla Martínez-López hold her granddaughter Sofia Guerrero Mondragón as her daughter Kimberley Mondragón-Martínez looks on during their visit at the Hospice Austin's Christopher House. Rosalba Martínez-López, who has stage IV cervical cancer. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
    Rosabla Martínez-López hold her granddaughter Sofia Guerrero Mondragón as her daughter Kimberley Mondragón-Martínez looks on during their visit at the Hospice Austin’s Christopher House. Rosalba Martínez-López, who had stage IV cervical cancer, died Dec. 2.
    RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

    The family members of Rosalba Martínez-López have been heartbroken by the loss of their mother and grandmother, who died Dec. 2 from cervical cancer. She was 37. Now her four children and granddaughter are trying to figure out what life will be like without her. They need help with rent, a reliable used car, transportation to school, diapers, day care and tuition. To help, call Care Communities at 512-459-5883 or visit thecarecommunities.org.

  • Uliya Fazal Ahmad, 48, who came with her five children to the United States this year from Afghanistan, needs help with medical care for a broken ankle. Her family needs vocational training, English tutoring and English learning software, and lamps. To help, call Caritas of Austin at 512-646-1277 or visit caritasofaustin.org.
  • Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez, 26, and his 4-year-old daughter, Emely, live without wife and mother, Adriana, who died in August from cervical cancer. Emely, who has Down syndrome, was diagnosed this month with leukemia. Their needs have grown as this new diagnosis makes his ability to work uncertain. They have no family in Austin. They need help with gift cards and financial donations to get them through her treatments. To help, call Hospice Austin at 512-342-4726 or visit hospiceaustin.org.
  • Deloris Fields, 27, found out her breast cancer had spread to her bones the day after her son, Connor, was born last December. She needs a first-floor apartment, a laptop, printer and external hard drive, a couch, a dresser, coffee table and lamps. To help, call Breast Cancer Resource Center at 512-817-9775 or visit bcrc.org.

Mattresses for Season for Caring stolen from Factory Mattress truck

Wednesday night between 8 and 10 p.m. at least two people broke into a semi-truck Factory Mattress uses to store its donations for Statesman Season for Caring and other charities during the holidays.

The lock was broken on the truck parked at Factory Mattresses’ warehouse at 4209 S. Industrial Drive. Security footage shows at least two people making multiple trips to load up a pickup truck. Nine mattresses and seven box springs designated for Season for Caring and other charities were taken. Factory Mattress estimates about $3,900 worth of product was taken.

For the last seven years,  Factory Mattress has made sure all of the featured families in the Statesman Season for Caring program have new beds.

This year, Factory Mattress donated 35 beds worth $28,000. It was the biggest donation in both dollar amount and number of beds Factory Mattress has given for Season for Caring. Since 2010, Factory Mattress has donated more than $118,000 to the campaign.

Sheila King and her niece Katelyn Splude share a quiet moment on the family property outside of Dripping Springs. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Sheila King and her niece Katelyn Splude share a quiet moment on the family property outside of Dripping Springs.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Season for Caring highlights the needs of 12 families and helps hundreds of other families throughout the year through local nonprofit agencies. Monetary donations and donations of goods and services can be made through Jan. 31, but now through Dec. 27, there is a matching grant for monetary donations up to $100,000 from the Sheth family. 

Some of the beds stolen were designated for the King family in Dripping Springs, who have lost three family members this year to suicide and cancer, and the Noheli family, who are refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and needed beds for 11 family members. Beds for two other families sponsored by churches were also in the trailer.

On Thursday morning, when Factory Mattress discovered the semi-truck had been broken into and the beds stolen, Factory Mattress began pulling from its stock inside the warehouse to replace the donated beds.

“This is the time of year when there are so many people that are really in need and other people prey on that,” said Mark Nelson, chief operating officer of Factory Mattress. “It’s just sad, but we got it figured out”

Nelson said there was no way they wouldn’t fulfill the orders for Season for Caring families and the churches’ families.

“As you read the stories in the paper, you get a better understanding of what a lot of these people have been through … ” Nelson said. “Then their attitude is … they are still smiling.”

Factory Mattress has filed a police report. It has security video of the theft and has asked its warehouse neighbors for their videos.

This is the second time donations for Season for Caring have been stolen from a parking lot. In January, a trailer that was filled with items for the family nominated by Interfaith Action of Central Texas was stolen from that agency’s parking lot. Season for Caring now encourages agencies to not use movable trailers to store donations and to deliver donations as quickly as possible.

Season for Caring now more than $265,000 in donations

Deloris Fields kissed her son, Connor Guenther after picking him up from daycare. Fields was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer on Dec. 4, 2015, the day after her son was born. RESHMA KIRPALANI / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Deloris Fields kissed her son, Connor Guenther after picking him up from daycare. Fields was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer on Dec. 4, 2015, the day after her son was born. RESHMA KIRPALANI / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Eighteen days into Season for Caring, we have crossed the $250,000 mark and have now raised $265,059.33. Donors have also given almost $70,000 in in-kind donations.

There is still plenty of time to give to Season for Caring and we need your help now more than ever. Wednesday, we received a matching grant of up to $100,000 for the Sheth family. Now through Dec. 27, they will match your donation. That means whatever you give can do so much more.

Give at statesman.com/seasonforcaring or clip out your coupon that runs daily in the paper and send in your check to Statesman Season for Caring, P. O. Box 50066, Austin, TX 78763-0066.

This year, the 18th Season for Caring, donations have come in big and small ways. People ate at P. Terry’s on Saturday and raised $31,640. People bought tins of cookies at the Driskill Hotel for Cookies for Caring on Sunday and raised $8,000. People bid on an auction from Statesman advertisers and raised $7,245. Whataburger launched the campaign with a $25,000 gift.

They also have donated in-kind donations in big and small ways. All month, the art and theater students at Grisham Middle School have been collecting donations for the McGill family. We’ll be with them on Sunday when they receive their gifts. A local Girl Scout Troop dropped of Home Depot gift cards to the King family on Saturday. Also on Saturday, we watched Waste Connections put together bikes for the Noheli family. We’ll watch the kids ride their bikes on Friday.

We’ve been to two of the dozen bed deliveries with Factory Mattress. It’s amazing how happy a family’s first new bed can make them. Wednesday, we met with SpawGlass to talk about the remodeling effort they will do to help the Martínez De La Paz have an accessible home for their boys who are in wheelchairs. Today, we’re heading to Northwest Hills Eye Care, where Francisco Zuñiga-Echeverria will receive an eye exam and new glasses and then meet with Better Hearing Center of Austin to get fitted for new hearing aids. 

Maricela Garcia cares for her son Raymond Alejandro Martinez-Garcia, 9,  at their apartment. JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Maricela Garcia cares for her son Raymond Alejandro Martinez-Garcia, 9, at their apartment. JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

We’ve also met with Dr. Kent Macaulay who set a course of dental treatment for Deloris Fields. All the families who needed dental care are getting it through Capital Area Dental Foundation. And we’ve seen Austin’s Couch Potatoes pick out furniture for Sheila King’s family.  We’re also looking forward to meeting with Star Furniture next week when they deliver presents to the Vasquez Olais family. They’ll be donating new furniture when the family moves into their new apartment in January.

Many families still have a lot of wishes still to be met. Your in-kind donation or your monetary donation can help do that, as well as help hundreds of other families through our nonprofit agency partners.

Read their stories and see some of their wishes:

  • Ashley McGill and her family’s life forever changed when their car was hit from behind. She is unable to work because of debilitating headaches. She needs car repairs, a living room sectional, a standing freezer, new glasses for Preston and help with medical bills, rent and car insurance. To find out more about the McGill family or fulfill one of their needs, call Wonders & Worries at 512-329-5757 or visit wondersandworries.org.
  • Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez, 26, and his 4-year-old daughter, Emely, live without wife and mother, Adriana, who died in August from cervical cancer. Emely, who has Down syndrome, was diagnosed Friday with leukemia. More tests are being done, but she is starting chemotherapy. Their needs have grown as this new diagnosis makes his ability to work uncertain. They have no family in Austin. They need help with gift cards and financial donations to get them through her treatments. To help, call Hospice Austin at 512-342-4726 or visit hospiceaustin.org.
  • Sheila King, 49, and her family lost her 15-year-old son, Austen, to suicide in July. Two months later, his father, Harrell King, 61, and his grandmother, Janie Chandler, 66, died from cancer. The Kings have many needs, but their largest is home remodeling, appliances and gift cards to Home Depot. To help, call CareBox Program at 512-296-2180 or visit careboxprogram.org.
  • The family members of Rosalba Martínez-López have been heartbroken by the loss of their mother and grandmother, who died Dec. 2 from cervical cancer. She was 37. Now her four children and granddaughter are trying to figure out what life will be like without her. They need help with rent, a reliable used car, day care and tuition. To help, call Care Communities at 512-459-5883 or visit thecarecommunities.org.
  • Rosabla Martínez-López hold her granddaughter Sofia Guerrero Mondragón as her daughter Kimberley Mondragón-Martínez looks on during their visit at the Hospice Austin's Christopher House. Rosalba Martínez-López, who has stage IV cervical cancer. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
    Rosabla Martínez-López hold her granddaughter Sofia Guerrero Mondragón as her daughter Kimberley Mondragón-Martínez looks on during their visit at the Hospice Austin’s Christopher House in October. Rosalba Martínez-López died on Dec. 2.
    RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

    Deloris Fields, 27, found out her breast cancer had spread to her bones the day after her son, Connor, was born last December. She needs a first-floor apartment, a laptop, printer and external hard drive, a dresser, coffee table and lamps. To help, call Breast Cancer Resource Center at 512-817-9775 or visit bcrc.org.

  • Luis Olais, 21, has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which daughter, Delilah, 3, also has. He and his partner, Keila Vasquez, 19, are waiting to hear if their son, 3-month-old Noah, has it as well. It affects connective tissue and joints and limits the kind of work that Olais can do. They need help with rent, child care, laptops and cosmetology school tuition. To help, call SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone) Austin at 512-590-3114 or visit safeaustin.org.
  • Liliana De La Paz, 29, and Juan Martínez Domínguez, 28, have two sons with spinal muscular atrophy type 2. Both 9-year-old Juan Diego and 2-year-old Jesús use motorized wheelchairs; Juan Diego is on a ventilator. They need electric blankets, pillows and clothing. To help, call Any Baby Can at 512-454-3743 or visit anybabycan.org.
  • Maricela Garcia, 42, is worried that her son Raymond, 9, who has Renpenning syndrome, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, isn’t getting the physical, occupational and speech therapy he needs. She needs rent and utilities assistance; pots and pans; driving lessons and an iPad that Raymond can use to communicate. To help, call Foundation Communities at 512-610-7391 or visit foundcom.org.
  • Uliya Fazal Ahmad, 48, who came with her five children to the United States this year from Afghanistan, needs help with medical care for a broken ankle. Her family needs a bigger kitchen table and six chairs, vocational training and English tutoring, pots and pans, and lamps. To help, call Caritas of Austin at 512-646-1277 or visit caritasofaustin.org.
  • Terry Markland, 65, has decades-old injuries to his feet and needs knee replacements. Medicare will cover some, but not all, of his recovery. He needs help with utility bills, clothing and transportation to church. To help, call Family Eldercare at 512-450-0844 or visit familyeldercare.org.
  • Issa Noheli, 61, looks down at his 1-year-old granddaughter Vanessa during a walk with his family outside of their apartment in south Austin. The Noheli family are refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who have resettled in Austin. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN
    Issa Noheli, 61, looks down at his 1-year-old granddaughter Vanessa during a walk with his family outside of their apartment in south Austin. The Noheli family are refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who have resettled in Austin. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

    Issa Noheli, 61, and his family came to Austin after living for 17 years in refugee camps in Central Africa. He lost his leg in an attack on a camp. He needs a prosthetic leg, but the family of 11 also needs a gently used car, a washer, a dryer, English tutoring and a vacuum cleaner. To help, call Interfaith Action of Central Texas at 512-386-9145 or visit interfaithtexas.org

  • Francisco Zuñiga-Echeverria, 28, grew up in foster care and needed hearing aids and eyeglasses, but Lucid Hearing, Better Hearing Center of Austin and Northwest Hills Eye Care have made sure he has what he needs. He also would like allergy testing. Also on his list is a green moped scooter to get around town, help with school, alert devices for the hearing-impaired, culinary classes and gift cards. To help, call LifeWorks at 512-735-2473 or visit lifeworksaustin.org.

 

Season for Caring receives $100,000 matching grant. Make your donation now

The Sheth family has made a donation of an up to $100,000 matching grant to Statesman Season for Caring. This morning, the Austin family agreed to give $50,000 anonymously, but have decided to double it to $100,000 and allow us to use their last name. They wish for the other details of their lives to remain private.

From now through Dec. 27, when you make a donation to Season for Caring, either through the online link at statesman.com/seasonforcaring or by mailing in a check using the coupon that appears daily in the paper, your donation will be matched.

This is the second year this family has given a significant donation to Season for Caring, but the first time in the program’s 18 years that a matching grant has been offered. It is also potentially the largest single donation made to Season for Caring.

The Sheth family likes to give money in a way that is going to encourage others to give as well, their representative said.

Sheila King and her niece Katelyn Splude share a quiet moment on the family property outside of Dripping Springs. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Sheila King and her niece Katelyn Splude share a quiet moment on the family property outside of Dripping Springs.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Statesman Season for Caring program began in 1999 and has raised more than $10 million to help local nonprofit agencies provide basic needs to families throughout Central Texas. Each year the Statesman highlights the needs of 12 families and invites the community to help those families as well as hundreds of others that are served by the agencies that nominated the featured families.

This year’s nonprofit agencies are Any Baby Can, Breast Cancer Resource Center, CareBox Program, Care Communities, Caritas of Austin, Family Eldercare, Foundation Communities, Hospice Austin, Interfaith Action of Central Texas, LifeWorks, SAFE Austin and Wonders & Worries.

The matching grant will be able to do a lot of good in the community, including providing for the featured families.

For Sheila King, 49, it can help her agency pay for water to be trucked to their property. The family lost three family members from July to September to cancer and suicide and needs major home repairs.

For the family of Rosalba Martínez-López, who died of cervical cancer on Dec. 2, it can help pay for their mother’s funeral as well as help the three teenage children and grandchild get settled in their older sister and aunt’s house.

For Maricela Garcia, the money can help her son Raymond, 9, receive more speech, occupational and physical therapy for Renpenning syndrome, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

For Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez, who lost his wife to cervical cancer in August, it can help him keep a roof over his head as he cares for his 4-year-old daughter Emely, who has Down syndrome and was recently diagnosed with leukemia.

For Terry Markland, 65, it can help him with expenses not covered by Medicare after he gets a very badly needed knee replacement surgery.

For Francisco Zuñiga-Echeverria, 28, who is deaf and grew up in foster care, this donation can help pay some of the expenses of college that are not covered in tuition.

For Liliana De La Paz, 29, and her husband Juan Martínez Domínguez, 28, it can help cover some of the medical expenses and supplies for their two sons in wheelchairs.

For Ashley McGill, 31, she will have to worry less about her financial situation after a car accident made it impossible to return to work.

For Keila Vasquez, 19, and Luis Olais, 21, it can help with some of his medical care for a joint and tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

For Issa Noheli, 61, from Democratic Republic of Congo, he might be closer to getting a prosthetic leg.

For Uliya Fazal Ahmad, 48, she and her family from Afghanistan can get more English-language tutoring, which will help with job placement.

For Deloris Fields, 27, it can help this young mom with metastatic breast cancer have a memorable Christmas with her 1-year-old son, Connor.

Season for Caring gives out first grants to agencies

Delilah Olais, 3, kisses her brother Noah, who is now 4 months. Parents Luis Olais, 21, and Keila Vasquez, 19, worry that both their kids may have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which Luis Olais has.    JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Delilah Olais, 3, kisses her brother Noah, who is now 4 months. Parents Luis Olais, 21, and Keila Vasquez, 19, worry that both their kids may have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which Luis Olais has.
JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

This afternoon, the 12 Season for Caring agencies are receiving their first checks for $7,000. It is always a happy day when Season for Caring gets to give out funds because we know that it will go to helping the 12 featured families as well as hundreds of other families that these nonprofits serve.

This year’s nonprofit agencies are Any Baby Can, Breast Cancer Resource Center, CareBox Program, Care Communities, Caritas of Austin, Family Eldercare, Foundation Communities, Hospice Austin, Interfaith Action of Central Texas, LifeWorks, SAFE Austin and Wonders & Worries.

All of the Season for Caring funds get collected and held by the Austin Community Foundation, which then writes the grant checks to the Season for Caring agencies and send out the tax receipts to donors. Recipients do not receive any cash. Instead, their agencies write checks to pay bills, purchase some of their needs for them or provide them with gift cards for a specific purpose.

To make a donation, go to statesman.com/seasonforcaring or find the coupon in the paper each day.

The first check typically goes to helping the featured families with their most pressing needs as well as providing Christmas presents. This year the need has been so great and some of the needs have greatly changed since we first told the families’ stories.

Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez plays with his daughter Emely Rodriguez-Aviles. Kelly West/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez plays with his daughter Emely Rodriguez-Aviles.
Kelly West/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

We know it will be used to help pay for the funeral of Rosalba Martínez-López, who died on Dec. 2, leaving behind four children and a grandchild. It will also be used to help pay some of Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez‘s bills as he takes care of his 4-year-old daughter Emely, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia and is in the hospital. Rodriguez-Lopez lost his wife to cancer in August. 

And it will help Keila Vasquez and Luis Olais be able to move into their first apartment in January with their two children, 3-year-old Delilah and 4-month-old Noah.

Since launching this year, Season for Caring has raised $233,866 in monetary donations and $67,607 in in-kind donations, but we are still less than half-way to being able to do all the things our agencies want to be able to do for their clients throughout the year.

Read more about the families below, see what the biggest item on their wish list is and which agency nominated them.

Deloris Fields is a 26-year-old, single mother. She was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, but now the cancer has metastasized to her bones. She and 1-year-old son Connor live in Taylor. Their biggest need is an apartment on the first floor. Nominated by: Breast Cancer Resource Center, 512-817-9775, bcrc.org.

Issa Noheli, 61, looks down at his 1-year-old granddaughter Vanessa during a walk with his family outside of their apartment in south Austin. The Noheli family are refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who have resettled in Austin. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Issa Noheli, 61, looks down at his 1-year-old granddaughter Vanessa during a walk with his family outside of their apartment in south Austin. The Noheli family are refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who have resettled in Austin. Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Issa Noheli’s family members no longer fear for their lives after living in refugee camps in Africa for 17 years. When one camp was attacked, Noheli lost his leg and is now on crutches. Their biggest need is a prosthetic leg. Nominated by: Interfaith Action of Central Texas, 512-386-9145, interfaithtexas.org

Sheila King and her family had three losses in two months: 15 year-old son, Austen, committed suicide; Sheila King’s husband Harrell and her mother Janie Chandler, both died from cancer. Their biggest need is home remodeling. Nominated by: CareBox Program, 512-296-2180, careboxprogram.org

Maricela Garcia raises her severely disabled son Raymond, 9, alone on a part-time salary. She needs certification for a better job and Raymond needs therapy. Her biggest need is money to provide therapy. Nominated by: Foundation Communities, 512-610-7391, foundcom.org.

Keila Vasquez and Luis Olais face his rare genetic disease, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which their 3-year-old daughter also has. They are waiting to find out about their infant son. Their need is tuition for Vasquez to go cosmetology school. Nominated by: SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone) Austin: Strong Start Program, 512-590-3114, safeaustin.org.

Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez is now a widower after after his wife died of cervical cancer. He’s also a single father to 4-year-old Emely, who has Down syndrome and now leukemia. His biggest need is financial donations to help them while he is caring for Emely during treatment. Nominated by: Hospice Austin, 512-342-4726; hospiceaustin.org

Rosabla Martínez-López hold her granddaughter Sofia Guerrero Mondragón as her daughter Kimberley Mondragón-Martínez looks on during their visit at the Hospice Austin's Christopher House. Rosalba Martínez-López, who has stage IV cervical cancer. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Rosabla Martínez-López holda her granddaughter Sofia Guerrero Mondragón as her daughter Kimberley Mondragón-Martínez looks on during their visit at the Hospice Austin’s Christopher House in October.
RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The family of Rosalba Martínez-López, who died Dec. 2 from cervical cancer. Her family needs help with paying for the funeral and moving to their aunt’s house. Nominated by: Care Communities, 512-459-5883, carecommunities.org

Terry Markland is disabled and was once homeless. His biggest need is help recovering from knee surgery.  Nominated by: Family Eldercare, 512-450-0844,familyeldercare.org.

Ashley McGill was thrown into homelessness after medical bills following a car accident. Though they are temporarily housed, she cannot make ends meet with debilitating head and neck pain. Her biggest need is financial assistance for rent and medical bills. Nominated by: Wonders & Worries, 512-329-5757, wondersandworries.org

Francisco Zuñiga-Echeverria, who is deaf, grew up in foster care after the death of his parents. After being homeless, he found LifeWorks and just needs a little help to be self-sufficient. His bigest need is a green Moped, which will allow him to have access to more job possibilities. Nominated by: LifeWorks, 512-735-2473;lifeworksaustin.org

Liliana De La Paz and Juan Martínez Domínguez have two children with rare genetic disease that affects their muscles, making them unable to walk. Their biggest need is a real estate lawyer to settle the title on their house. Nominated by: Any Baby Can, 512-454-3743, anybabycan.org

Uliya Fazal Ahmad was abused after protecting her 14-year-old daughter from marriage and fled Afghanistan with her five children. Her biggest need is vocational training for her son, Mukhtar, to be able to support the family.  Nominated by: Caritas of Austin, 512-646-1277, caritasofaustin.org

 

 

New cancer worries for Rodriguez-Lopez family

Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez plays with his daughter Emely Rodriguez-Aviles. Kelly West/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez plays with his daughter Emely Rodriguez-Aviles.
Kelly West/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

For a family that is still grieving the loss of a wife and mother, the news could not be more devastating. 4-year-old Emely Rodriguez-Aviles has been diagnosed with leukemia. More tests are being done, but she will be starting chemotherapy immediately. She also has Down syndrome and uses a gastrointestinal tube to eat.

Father Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez was trying to rebuild their lives after wife Adriana died of cervical cancer in August. Emely had started at Rosedale School, which is for children with special needs. Her father was trying to look ahead toward being able to work more and even possibly starting his own painting business.

Today, we wrote about a meeting between Rodriguez-Lopez and Marty Butler of Butler Bros., who was helping him design his business cards.

Now many things are up in the air, including how much Rodriguez-Lopez will be able to work to support the family. They have no family or support system in Austin.

They need help with gift cards and financial donations to get them through her treatments, as well as clothing and toys for Emely for Christmas, an immigration attorney to help him renew his resident status. Eventually, he would like high school equivalency classes, English tutoring and a work truck.

To find out more about the Rodriguez-Lopez family or fulfill one of their needs, contact Hospice Austin, 512-342-4726, hospiceaustin.org. To make a monetary donation, go to statesman.com/seasonforcaring

Watch a video of the Rodriguez-Lopez talk about the loss of his wife.

 

More than $150,000 donated to Season for Caring this year

Season for Caring, the Statesman’s holiday charity program, has raised $153,225.71 in its first 11 days. That includes a $25,000 donation from Whataburger and $7,245 raised by the Statesman online auction, which closed on Saturday.

This was the first year the Statesman held an auction. People could bid on everything from a fur coat to a night at the W Hotel — more than $13,000 worth of items, all donated by Statesman advertisers.

Since 1999, the program has raised $9.9 million for local nonprofit agencies. In fact, we are about $100,000 away from hitting the $10 million mark.  You can give to Season for Caring by going to the website, statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

Season for Caring highlights the needs of local families, who are all nominated by local nonprofit agencies. The money raised helps the selected families first, but then the selected agencies are able to help hundreds of other clients throughout the year with basic needs.

We also seen many, many amazing in-kind gifts of goods and services this year. Factory Mattress is donating 35 beds worth $23,000 to Season for Caring families. Last week, we saw Maricela Garcia receive her bed. Tomorrow, we’ll see Ashley McGill get her bed. McGill currently sleeps in a recliner. A car accident makes it impossible for her to sleep in a horizontal position. Factory Mattress went above and beyond and worked with her agency, Wonders & Worries, to get McGill and adjustable bed.

We also got to see Deloris Fields meet with Dr. Kent Macaulay of the Capital Area Dental Foundation. He will be able to give this mom with breast cancer the ability to eat comfortably again after he repairs the damage left by treatment. Capital Area Dental Foundation is taking care of 11 Season for Caring recipients this year. 

We’ve also seen Sheila King pick out new furniture at Austin’s Couch Potatoes. This weekend her home will be cleared out to make way for the new bedroom, living room and dining room furniture — about $6,000 worth. Waste Connections has donated a dumpster and Mobile Mini Storage has donated a storage unit.

More good news is on the way for all of the families, but if you can help by fulfilling an item on a family’s wish list or by making a monetary donation it will go a long way, more than you will ever know.

Read the stories of the families and learn more about their agencies:

Deloris Fields is a 26-year-old, single mother. She was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, but now the cancer has metastasized to her bones. She and 11-month-old son Connor live in Taylor. Nominated by: Breast Cancer Resource Center, 512-817-9775, bcrc.org.

Issa Noheli’s family members no longer fear for their lives after living in refugee camps in Africa for 17 years. When one camp was attacked, Noheli lost his leg and is now on crutches. Nominated by: Interfaith Action of Central Texas, 512-386-9145, interfaithtexas.org

Sheila King and her family had three losses in two months: 15 year-old son, Austen, committed suicide; Sheila King’s husband Harrell and her mother Janie Chandler, both died from cancer. Nominated by: CareBox Program, 512-296-2180, careboxprogram.org

Delilah Olais, 3, kisses her brother Noah, who is now 4 months. Parents Luis Olais, 21, and Keila Vasquez, 19, worry that both their kids may have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which Luis Olais has. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Delilah Olais, 3, kisses her brother Noah, who is now 4 months. Parents Luis Olais, 21, and Keila Vasquez, 19, worry that both their kids may have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which Luis Olais has.
JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Keila Vasquez and Luis Olais face his rare genetic disease, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which their 3-year-old daughter also has. They are waiting to find out about their infant son. Nominated by: SAFE (Stop Abuse for Everyone) Austin: Strong Start Program, 512-590-3114, safeaustin.org.

Maricela Garcia raises her severely disabled son Raymond, 9, alone on a part-time salary. She needs certification for a better job and Raymond needs therapy. Nominated by: Foundation Communities, 512-610-7391, foundcom.org

Jacob Rodriguez-Lopez is now a widower after after his wife died of cervical cancer. He’s also a single father to 4-year-old Emely, who has heart defects and Down syndrome and has a tube in her stomach to eat. Nominated by: Hospice Austin, 512-342-4726; hospiceaustin.org

Rosalba Martínez-López’s family . This single mother and grandmother died on Dec. 2 from cervical cancer. Her children, who range in age from 21 to 13, need help with many things, including help paying for her funeral.  Nominated by: Care Communities, 512-459-5883, carecommunities.org

Terry Markland is disabled and was once homeless. The senior seeks mobility, access and a new pair of knees. Nominated by: Family Eldercare, 512-450-0844, familyeldercare.org.

The Fazal Ahmad family -- Mukhtar Abdul Jabbar, 19, left, Feroza Abdul Jabbar, 12, Palwasha Abdul Jabbar, 17, Uliya Fazal Ahmad, 48, Nazi Abdul Jabbar, 15, and Nisar Abdul Jabbar, 16 -- arrived from Afghanistan last summer. They are enjoying a meal at their apartment in Austin. Rodolfo Gonzalez/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The Fazal Ahmad family — Mukhtar Abdul Jabbar, 19, left, Feroza Abdul Jabbar, 12, Palwasha Abdul Jabbar, 17, Uliya Fazal Ahmad, 48, Nazi Abdul Jabbar, 15, and Nisar Abdul Jabbar, 16 —
arrived from Afghanistan last summer. They are enjoying a meal at their apartment in Austin.
Rodolfo Gonzalez/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Ashley McGill was thrown into homelessness after medical bills following a car accident. Though they are temporarily housed, she cannot make ends meet with debilitating head and neck pain. Nominated by: Wonders & Worries, 512-329-5757, wondersandworries.org

Francisco Zuñiga-Echeverria, who is deaf, grew up in foster care after the death of his parents. After being homeless, he found LifeWorks and just needs a little help to be self-sufficient. Nominated by: LifeWorks, 512-735-2473; lifeworksaustin.org

Liliana De La Paz and Juan Martínez Domínguez have two children with rare genetic disease that affects their muscles, making them unable to walk. Nominated by: Any Baby Can, 512-454-3743, anybabycan.org

Uliya Fazal Ahmad was abused after protecting her 14-year-old daughter from marriage and fled Afghanistan with her five children. Nominated by: Caritas of Austin, 512-646-1277, caritasofaustin.org

For second year, Cookies for Caring sells out

The Driskill Hotel is taking part in the American-Statesman's Season for Caring 2015 campaign by creating Cookies for Caring. Executive Pastry Chef Tony Sansalone is helping to create holiday cookies by area chefs to raise money. Here is an example of the holiday cookie tin from the Driskill. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The Driskill Hotel is taking part in the American-Statesman’s Season for Caring 2015 campaign by creating Cookies for Caring. Executive Pastry Chef Tony Sansalone is helping to create holiday cookies by area chefs to raise money. Here is an example of the holiday cookie tin from the Driskill.
RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

A big thank you to the Driskill Hotel and to all of you. We have sold out the 300 tins for Cookies for Caring on Sunday. That means the Driskill expects to donate $8,000 to Season for Caring.

We’re looking forward to tasting the creations of Driskill’s 1886 Cafe & Bakery, Whole Foods, Four Seasons Austin, Hilton Austin, the University of Texas Golf Club, Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill, Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa, Blackbird Bakery, Bribery Bakery, Parkside and Hyatt Regency Austin. All of the bakeries have donated their cookies.

This is the second year for Cookies for Caring and the second year we have sold out days before the event.

If you didn’t get a tin in time, consider making a donation to Season for Caring and making your own cookies. Addie Broyles wrote today about the winning cookies for our Austin360 Holiday Cookie Contest. 

Arleen Acton won the big prize with her Iced Lemon Cookies. We can personally vouch for their deliciousness.  Find lots of cookie recipes at austin360.com/food-drink/

Make your Season for Caring donation at statesman.com/seasonforcaring.

You can read about the magical night the Driskill gave to Season for Caring’s McGill family here.

Season for Caring 2015 recipient Cordelia Flores dies

Gerónimo Flores, 71, and his wife Cordelia, 73, play with their grandson, Neamiah, 3, in their home, which they have lived in for more than 40 years. Rising taxes and health concern make it hard to stay in the home.  Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Gerónimo Flores and his wife Cordelia play with their grandson, Neamiah, in their home last year.
Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

On a day when we reported the loss of 2016 Season for Caring recipient Rosalba Martínez-López to cancer this morning, we found out about the loss of 2015 Season for Caring recipient Cordelia Flores on Wednesday. Flores was 74.

Flores’ daughter Crystal Flores messaged us the news. We ran an update story in November about all the Season for Caring 2015 families and knew that Cordelia Flores was not doing well.

At the time, she had been in a nursing home after breaking her hip in July and becoming physically weaker. Cordelia Flores was in stage IV renal failure because of uncontrolled diabetes when last year’s Season for Caring program began.

She told us in fall 2015 that her health was frustrating for her because she had always been a hard worker and always cared for others.
“There is nothing like a house full of children,” she told us wistfully, remembering those busy, happy days when she felt needed. She used to get up at 5 a.m. every day to make tortillas.

Statesman Season for Caring features the stories of 12 families each year and fulfills their wishes. Additional donations go to help more families through the local nonprofits that nominated the featured families. The Flores family was nominated by Meals on Wheels.

Crystal Flores said her family is taking it day by day, “but knowing she isn’t suffering, makes us happy.” Her father, Gerónimo Flores, 72, she said, “is holding up the best that he can. They were married 53 years, so it will be an adjustment for him.”

Flores, says she is grateful for Season for Caring. “Thank you for giving our family one last Christmas with Mama last year, one last memory that I will treasure,” she said.