Since early May, people have donated more than $12,000 to a Hampshire family on the verge of losing their home after being struck by an uninsured drunken driver on Christmas Eve 2008.
The crash injured Francisco Valdez, his four children and his father-in-law.
Valdez was driving to Provena St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin to visit his wife, Diana, who had a stroke a month earlier.
Francisco Valdez suffered a broken back in the crash and has been unable to return to work; the Valdezes' home was sold in a foreclosure auction in late July.
Diana Valdez said her oldest son, Francisco Jr., moved to a Detroit suburb to attend college and pursue a career in law enforcement, while the remainder of her family is going to move to Rockford to live with relatives.
"We still have to move by the end of the month," she said. "But the rest of the family, we're going to stick together."
Administer Justice, an Elgin not-for-profit agency that provides pro bono legal representation to low-income families, set up a relief fund for the family in May.
"The response from the community has been very positive. The family appreciates all the cards, notes and more than $12,000 which was given to them and will provide important stability as they make the
difficult transition out of their home," said Bruce Strom, executive director of Administer Justice, adding that his group was grateful to be able to assist the Valdez family. "With so much tragedy it is a blessing to know there are people of good will in this world who want to help neighbors in need."
Diana Valdez also said she and her family are appreciative.
"We're doing fine," she said. "Thank you everybody for helping. We never thought there were people out there that were willing to help."
"Fine," however, can be a relative term.
The donations helped pay some of the Valdezes' medical bills and repaid some loans from family members who helped out shortly after the crash to make ends meet.
The family was awarded $2.7 million in a lawsuit against the drunken driver, James M. Palmer, of Elgin. But that means little. Palmer had no insurance at the time of the crash. Palmer, 40, is serving an eight-year prison term after pleading guilty to aggravated DUI, but he could be released in June 2014 because of time off for good behavior, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.
"We don't want to move, but we don't have another choice. We have to be out," Diana Valdez said.
The fact that the Valdezes will lose their home is irreversible. And Francisco Valdez will never be able to return to his construction job.
But Diana Valdez is still holding out hope that her husband can get better.
She says he is in constant pain, and sometimes yells at his family because he is frustrated.
Diana said that if anyone else was going to reach out to help them, her wish would be for a volunteer doctor or hospital to step forward and perform a surgery to fix her husband's back so he is not in so much pain.
"He eats (the pills) like peanuts, one after another. He say's he can't take the pain," Diana Valdez said. "I want to have somebody do a better surgery to make him feel better for his pain. So he won't have to be taking the pills any more. That's what I want. That's what my kids want. Maybe it's impossible. Maybe what I am asking for is too much."
Donations may be sent to: Administer Justice, c/o the Francisco and Diana Valdez Family, 1750 Grandstand Place, Suite 15, Elgin, 60123. For details, call (847) 844-1100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Specify on the check that the donation is for the Valdez Family.