Facebook Friends Share Christmas Spirit

A mother of two children with disabilities receives Christmas gifts for the first time

Christmas visited Josefina Martinez and her two children for the first time.

"My children and I have never celebrated Christmas," said Josefina as she sat in the tiny room she shares with her children in an Elgin apartment.

As a 34-year-old single mother of children with disabilities, Josefina's life is a struggle.

Her 22-month-old daughter Yudith has limited sight, and was recently diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Her son, 8-year-old Jose lost his sight in an incubator when he was an infant, and is challenged by multiple learning disabilities.

Her husband promised her a better life in the United States, but after he beat her and abandoned her, all she found was more strife.

This week, a number of generous NBC Chicago viewers tried their best to bring a glimmer of light to Josefina's life.

It all started when we asked our NBC 5 News Today Facebook friends to suggest a family in need so that we could find them help. That's when Julie Lee, a clinical Social Worker from South Elgin, reached out to NBC 5's Zoraida Sambolin and suggested a hard luck case from among her files. She suggested Josefina.

"I thought a light needed to be shined on children with disabilities," Lee said.

Soon after, Joe Higgins and Andrea Pausa reached out to Zoraida on Facebook, saying they wanted to help this family.

"We are very fortunate to have a family that can give to a family like this," said Pausa.

Higgins contacted several companies and organizations, and received more than he expected. The Wal-Mart in Niles donated a $500 gift card, and Michael Janet, a State Farm Agent, donated a $100 gift card to Wal-Mart as well.

"I am impressed with people's willingness to give to this family that they didn't know," said Higgins.

So on a Sunday morning, our Facebook friends descended on Josefina's tiny apartment to bring all the Christmas cheer.

Higgins sealed the drafty windows, and thanks to donations from Apelian Carpets in Evanston, he added a carpet to Josefina's room. Higgins then replaced Josefina's dining room table with a new one provided by Howard Brown/The Brown Elephant in Evanston. 

In the mean time, Lee and Pausa's family stocked the pantry with non-perishable food items that Dominick's donated.  Not to mention, they decked out Josefina's dining room with Christmas decorations.

Then came the gifts. Pausa gave Josefina space heaters to stay warm. She also gave Jose an iPod full of his favorite Ranchero music, which she downloaded with her daughter who is home on break from College. Jose placed the headphones in his ears and began singing and moving his feet with joy, the sound of music was like therapy.

Yudith began smiling and moving her hands up in the air with extreme happiness when Higgins gave her toys from Hand-me-downs in Evanston.

Karlson Kitchens in Evanston made reading time a treasure with "Twas the night before Christmas," a Hallmark recordable book.  Higgins' voice will be a part of Yudith and Jose's life for years to come.

Our friends at Dynavox Mayer-Johnson also provided developmental toys and learning tools for both of the kids and Enabling Devices generously provided more learning and assistive devices.

And finally for mom, Lather Salon gifted her with a well deserved makeover!

She never asks for help, but this Christmas, even though Josefina did not ask, she did receive.

And as she looked at all the gifts in her living room, a tearful Josefina hugged Zoraida.

"I've never received gifts like this, I never have," said Josefina.

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