Surprise Squad helps mom struggling to pay daughter’s mounting medical bills

Surprise Squad is sponsored by Valley Toyota Dealers
Life has been overwhelming for Jennifer since last April, when her 5-year-old daughter Amelia was diagnosed with leukemia followed by other illnesses.
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 9:07 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Life has been overwhelming for Jennifer since last April, when her 5-year-old daughter Amelia was diagnosed with leukemia. It was an especially scary diagnosis because that form cancer had afflicted other people in her family, including her uncle who died from it when he was just a teenager.

Shortly after that, Amelia was also diagnosed with mucormycosis, a potentially life-threatening fungus infection that targeted the roof of her mouth. Amelia’s been in and out of surgery since, having cartilage taking from her nose and mouth. She now has a hole in the roof of her mouth that will someday have to be reconstructed.

“I just have continue to stay strong and just believe everything is going to be okay,” Jen told Arizona’s Family’s Tess Rafols and the Surprise Squad crew when they recently surprised her at her grandmother’s house. “It’s kind of better to think that way so I can be as strong as I can for her.”

At the time of the diagnosis, Jennifer was working at home as a customer service rep. But having to take Amelia to all the different doctor appointments made working difficult. When it was just Amelia and Jennifer at home alone, Jennifer would have to make sure Amelia didn’t remove any medical tubes while she was on the phone. Sometimes an at-home nurse would visit and at times that would distract Jennifer from doing her job. 

Over the months, her FMLA ran out and she lost her job. A social worker was helping to find resources for the two, but those avenues also all ran dry. Jennifer told Tess that she only had $100 to $200 left in food stamps and she had no idea how she was going to pay for February’s rent.

“You shouldn’t have to worry where your next meal is going to come from and sadly we know that’s the case sometimes,” Tess said. She got Amelia to hand her mom a large poster board. “Fry’s wanted to present you with a $1,000 gift card to help you guys out so you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to buy her some milk or any other food.”

“You can get all the little snacks you were asking for,” Jennifer told Amelia.

Tess then gave Jennifer an envelope from Valley Toyota Dealers. Inside a was certificate saying Jennifer would be getting $5,000.  “You got a lot of money,” Amelia shouted with joy.

“Your Valley Toyota Dealers sees this as such a special situation and they wanted to add more.” Tess gave Jennifer a second envelope that contained a second certificate for an extra $5,000.

“Thank you so much,” Jennifer smiled. “It really is a lot off my shoulders and now I can feel a lot better. I can breathe finally.”