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A Season for Caring

Marcelo and Gael with George Sanchez

Gael Gracia was a teenager when his strong 38-year-old father, Marcelo, was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. He’s been caring for his father, off and on, ever since. Marcelo is now unable to move without support. His speech is weak and swallowing is becoming more difficult. Gael’s brother and his sister help when they can, but everyone has full-time jobs. Gael works in a laundromat and used to have leave Marcelo alone in bed for over 8 hours at a time. That all changed with Season for Caring.

Hospice Austin nominated Marcelo and Gael for the Austin American-Statesman’s Season for Caring campaign. Season for Caring highlights the needs of 12 featured families from local nonprofits. Readers donate money, goods, and services which help the featured family first and then help the agency’s other neediest families. After we learned that Marcelo had been accepted into Season for Caring, we contacted BrightStar Care to hire certified nurse aides to stay with Marcelo while his son is at work. George Sanchez, president of the Austin franchise, met with Marcelo and Gael to assess their needs. George volunteered to donate half the cost of the CNA’s services for however long Marcelo lives. But that’s not all – he also presented Gael with a full scholarship to become a certified nursing assistant and promised him a job with BrightStar Care once he graduates.

“When we met Gael, we were so impressed by the quality of care he provided to his dad,” George said. “Gael has a real gift. He needs to be in healthcare.”

Other wonderful things have been happening for this family. Factory Mattress has donated an adjustable frame for Marcelo queen-size mattress and a twin bed for Gael to be closer to his dad at night. A widower who lost his wife to ALS last year has donated funds for Marcelo’s wife to come spend the holidays with him. The Capital Area Dental Foundation has donated dental services, and Firehouse Animal Health Center is caring for Gael’s dog.

Gael with Emily and Sally Jung

Emily Jung read about Marcelo and Gael on a friend’s Facebook page and talked with her family. They decided that instead of exchanging gifts with each other, they would provide everything on Marcelo’s wish list that they possibly could.

“We don’t need more stuff,” Emily explained. “We wanted to help someone else instead.”

The Jung family donated money toward caregiver costs for Marcelo; pillows, bedding and a memory foam mattress topper for Marcelo; gift cards; and a wireless printer and monitor. Marcelo’s 4-year-old grandson loves trains, and so they got him a train set and train-themed backpack and lunchbox as well as a new bike for Marcelo to give him for Christmas. Their children even decorated Christmas cards for Marcelo. It’s going to be a happy Christmas.

Thanks to the generosity of the community, it really is a season for caring!

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