Caring for five kids is an immense responsibility, especially for a 20-year-old woman who’s dealing with the monumental loss of her parents. But, after both of their parents passed away, one young woman decided she would try to raise her siblings. When the sheriff’s office found out, however, they had to step in.
Samantha Rodriguez was the eldest of six when she and her five siblings lost both of their parents to cancer within years of each other. She didn’t want her younger siblings to go into the foster care system. “I knew what I had to do,” Samantha said. So, at just 20 years old, she thrust herself into the role of primary caregiver for her younger siblings, ages 6 to 16, according to Inside Edition.
Raising five kids is never easy, but it’s especially hard when you are doing it alone and only 20 years old. So, the family moved to Orange County, Florida, to be with their grandmother. Money and resources were still tight, however, forcing Samantha to grow up fast. As a Disney World employee, Samantha was doing her best to provide for her five younger siblings, but it obviously wasn’t without challenges.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit (OCSO) in Orlando, Florida, found out about the family’s struggles and decided to “adopt” the family, providing the kids with a Christmas they would never forget. But, during the holiday surprise, the department noticed something was off, and before long, they would be addressing the issue they spotted.
Months after the Christmas encounter at the station, the 20-year-old was asked to come down to the local sheriff’s office. Since she didn’t know the police had noticed something amiss, Samantha had no idea what was happening. But, life as she and her siblings knew it was about to change.
When the young woman and her siblings were invited to the station in December, Samantha didn’t realize the visit had raised red flags. “We took pictures with the officers and the helicopter,” Samantha recalled. “Then they said, ‘Let’s go into this room for milk and cookies.'” Of course, there was more than milk and cookies waiting for them there.
As OCSO surprised the family with Christmas gifts, something caught their eye as the siblings arrived, and that’s when the department knew they would have to step in. After many months of inquiries, they finally had everything they needed to bring the eldest sibling back into the station. When Samantha arrived, the cops showed her a photo. It was then that she realized what the keen cops had seen.
The photograph was of a brand new Nissan Versa. “It’s yours,” the cops told Samantha. Indeed, the already generous police officers had decided to do more for the family after noticing that the six siblings had arrived in an Uber for their previous visit to the department. The family clearly couldn’t contain their excitement after seeing their new ride.
The sheriff’s department posted an emotional and heartwarming video of their reaction to social media. “Wow, I’m in shock, guys. Thank you guys so much. You don’t know how much this means to us and it is such a big help,” Samantha said. “Doing everything on my own is very hard, but I am so glad to have people like you guys in my life.”
After OCSO posted about the Christmas celebration on social media, scores of people contacted the department asking how they could help the young woman, who had taken on so much responsibility and shown much strength in the face of such incredible hardship. Knowing Samantha had to ask for rides from friends or take Ubers to get her siblings to do something as simple as getting groceries, they came up with the perfect plan.
The department and community banded together to raise the money for the car. It will not only help Samantha with the endless tasks of caring for a large family, but it will also provide so much more. “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,” Samantha said, according to the New York Post.
OCSO also started a GoFundMe page for the family, raising over $23,000 in a matter of days. “We have a great community that not only supports the OCSO but the community,” Major Deputy Jason Sams of the OCSO aviation unit said. “This is just everyday citizens in Orange County who were doing this.”
As everyone applauded Samantha Rodriguez’s determination, the humble young woman turned the praise to her late mother. “I learned so much from my mom. I was like her sidekick. I learned what it meant to raise a family,” she explained, reminding us all that family should stick together and take care of one another, no matter how tough it might be. Thankfully, the community is rewarding her efforts and making it a little easier to keep five young siblings, who already lost so much, together and out of foster care. That’s a job well done, all around.