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posted: 1/29/2014 8:27 PM

Plainfield charity helps children who lose parents in vehicle crashes

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Throughout her 20-year career selling auto insurance, Plainfield resident Ericka Ceballos says she has seen far too many children lose a parent in auto accidents.

In 2012, Ceballos formed the Little Footprints Foundation to help ensure those children have additional support during that first 18 months of transition.

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"So often, there is no one there to help lift that family up after a tragedy and there are so many things to worry about. We thought we could make an impact by helping surviving parents or guardians buy new clothes for children," Ceballos said Wednesday. "But it's not just one-time help. We stay to help celebrate birthdays and we host a Christmas party and we help the families budget."

Thanks to donors, Little Footprints is able to provide children ages 4 to 14 with $2,000, distributed in $350 chunks each season, to purchase new clothes. Since its creation, she says, the group has given 21 children money for clothes.

"There are so many expenses to deal with, no child should go without," she said. "But we find a new wardrobe and the compliments it brings also provide a nice pick-me-up for the children and helps take their mind off the tragedy, even if for a short time."

Ceballos said it's often difficult to tactfully reach out to families directly, without contact information. She contacted the Daily Herald Tuesday night in hopes of reaching and being able to help the family of Vincent Petrella, a 39-year-old Wheeling man and tollway worker, who was killed in Monday night's semitrailer truck crash on I-88 near Aurora. He leaves behind his wife, Sandra, and two young children.

"That is a family that will need support and we're saying we want to help," Ceballos said. "When the time is right, we're hoping their friends or family will help connect us to their support system."

Little Footprints accepts donations at www.littlefootprintsfoundation.org.

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