Courtesy Linda HerederoEver since an injury in August 2008, Joey Heredero had been having leg problems, reaching the point where he couldn’t straighten his knee anymore. After months of misdiagnosis, the 21-year-old got the call the next February: It was bone cancer.
From there, his life took a turn. Every other week his family would drive from their home in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, to the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California, for Joey’s treatment. He spent his 22nd birthday going through bone transplant surgery. He was able to walk again for about six months, but by February 2010, the cancer was back. Joey’s leg was amputated above the knee the next month, but the cancer had already spread to his lungs.
Courtesy Linda HerederoThroughout Joey’s battle with cancer, the community softened the financial blow of treatment and travel costs. An ice cream shop offered to throw a fundraiser, giving a portion of proceeds to Joey. A classic car club presented him with a $500 Visa gift card to cover travel costs. Another local planned a poker night to raise money, with prizes donated by businesses.
Having moved from Los Angeles in 2001, the family was blown away by the generosity of the Lake Havasu City community of about 50,000. “You don’t know everyone, but you protect your own anytime something happens,” says Joey’s mom, Linda.
When Joey’s lungs started filling with fluid, he had to be airlifted to Santa Monica. The first treatment didn’t work, so doctors hooked up a tube to drain out the fluid. But the 22-year-old kept getting weaker. “Eventually the fluid became … too thick, bubbly,” says Linda. “It wasn’t coming out anymore.”
Joey entered the intensive care unit. He passed away three days later, on June 11, 2010.
Courtesy Linda HerederoLinda Anderson, the owner of local craft store heard about the family’s loss through Joey’s dad, Joe, who was the mailman for her store. Anderson made hundreds of cards, then dropped them off at every business and home along Joe’s route, asking each place to consider donating to the Herederos to help cover funeral costs. For weeks, cards flooded in, holding checks for as much as $500. “It was like a shower of blessings that was just pouring in,” says Linda.
Courtesy Linda HerederoMeanwhile, Joey’s friends from high school were secretly planning a fundraiser. They sold raffle tickets for prizes donated by businesses, plus T-shirts with Joey’s face. Between the cards and the raffle, the Herederos received nearly $15,000—enough to cover all the funeral expenses. “Who plans for your child dying before you do?” says Linda. “The last thing you’re thinking about is funeral expenses. … We had already lost our son and thought we would be in debt for years.” Don’t miss these must-know funeral etiquette tips.
Courtesy Linda HerederoLinda still sends Christmas cards to Anderson, who was a stranger to her before sending cards, and keeps in touch with Joey’s friends. “I get a Mother’s Day card from one of his friends every year,” she says.
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