Twenty-year-old Samantha Rodriguez has been raising her five younger siblings on her own since after losing both her parents to cancer. After discovering Rodriguez’s story, anonymous donors from her local Florida community came together to surprise her with a brand new car.
ICYMI: Here's the story on the anonymous donors who stepped up to buy a new car for Samantha Rodriguez, who at 20 is raising her five younger siblings after her parents' death. Nice story here, too:https://t.co/iNCmq7vSh7 pic.twitter.com/m6B0rCEJcy— Orange County Sheriff's Office (@OrangeCoSheriff) April 8, 2019
While Samantha Rodriguez is currently the primary care giver of her siblings (who are between the ages of seven and fifteen), she’s been “taking care of them all my life.” The Rodriguez children first lost their mother to cervical cancer and three years later their father, who lost his battle to Lymphoma on April 15, 2016.
“I don’t know how to explain what we’ve been through to not have them around. It’s been a big void in our lives,” Rodriguez tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Since then, her grandmother has been helping Milagro, 15, Brenda, 14, Michael, 13, Bella, 8, and Destiny, 7, around the house, while she works during the day as a server for Disney Springs at Disney World. On top of her job, Rodriguez would ask friends for rides, pay for Ubers or ride the bus to get the children to appointments, run errands, pick up groceries and more.
Local Florida residents first caught wind of Rodriguez’s circumstance when the Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) surprised the family with Christmas gifts while on a tour of its aviation unit. Inspired by the local authorities act of kindness, community members began to reach out to the sheriff’s office about how they, too, could step in and help out.
The Rodriguez kids lost both parents to cancer in recent years. Samantha, 20, has taken on the role of caregiver to her five younger siblings. The kids thought they were visiting the OCSO Aviation Unit for a tour. Instead, they received a Christmas none of us will ever forget! pic.twitter.com/1Bs4w6PQob— Orange County Sheriff's Office (@OrangeCoSheriff) December 24, 2018
“Facebook post blew up asking what they could do further for the family. When I stopped looking at it, it was 17k like, by the end we were at 50k likes,” Major Deputy Jason Sams of the OSCO aviation unit tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Deputy Sams later discovered about the car purchase through the chain of command.
“We didn’t expect it at all— it blew us away that people stepped forward,” says Deputy Sams, 41. On April 8, the OCSO announced that donors had stepped up to purchase the Rodriguez family a brand new Nissan Versa— and Samantha could barely believe it.
“Are you serious right now? Wow, I’m in shock,” the 20-year-old says in a video posted by the OSCO. “You don’t know how much this means to us, it’s such a big help. You know, doing everything on my own is very hard, but I’m so glad to have people like you guys in my life.”
Rodriguez tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the car has been such a “blessing to my family” and that it’s truly changed their lives. “Having a car is a major priority for any family, really. Not having a car before was really difficult to get around. Now that I have a car it motivates me to get more done and do what I need to do,” says Rodriguez, adding that the car has lifted a huge financial burden off her shoulders. Now that she’s graduated from high school, Rodriguez hopes to continue her education at Valencia College in Florida.
However, the most invaluable thing the car has given Samantha and her siblings is quality time together. “I will help bring my family closer together. Now that we have a car, we can go to church on Sundays like we used to. And the kids have already asked to go to the park. The possibilities are endless,” says Rodriguez, who adds that she can now let the kids participate in after school activities with a car to pick them up. “This act of kindness has gone beyond for me, I’m so grateful. There’s nothing I can do to pay them back.”
According to OSCO, dozens of requests to help the Rodriguez family are still coming in from all over the country— the office receives requests several times a week and sometimes daily. “We have a great community that not only supports the OSCO but the community,” says Deputy Sams. “This is just everyday citizens in Orange County who were doing this.”
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