20-Year-Old Woman Raising 5 Siblings Gets Surprise From Sheriff’s Office — A New Car

Samantha Rodriguez, who recently lost both parents to cancer, said, “You don't know how much this means to us!”

April 12, 2019

Photo by: Samantha Rodriguez [Orange County Sheriff's Office]

Samantha Rodriguez [Orange County Sheriff's Office]

By: Mike McPadden

ORANGE COUNTY, FL — A 20-year-old Florida woman who has been raising her five younger siblings in the wake of their parents’ death got a surprise from the local sheriff’s department — a new car.

After losing both her mom and dad to cancer in the past five years, Samantha Rodriguez, 20, remained determined to keep her family intact. Refusing to let the state’s foster care system intervene, Samantha immediately stepped up to the role as the primary caregiver of her five younger brothers and sisters, who range in age from five to 17.

Samantha credits her mother as her inspiration, saying, “I knew what I had to do. I learned so much from my mom. I was like her sidekick. I learned what it meant to raise a family."

Since 2016, Samantha has made sure her siblings are clothed, fed, and in school on time every day — without the benefit of owning a car.

That changed recently, but it started last December, after the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s aviation unit learned about the heroic effort Samantha puts up every single day. As a holiday treat, the officers invited the Rodriguez family to visit them at Christmas time.

On that special occasion, the Rodriguez kids met all the officers, went for a helicopter ride, and got surprised by a room full of presents for the family.

Lieutenant Antorrio Wright told the press, "We focused on clothes, but also toys. We wanted to give them a good Christmas."

Then, after the sheriff’s office posted a video of the visit online, community members reached out to offer help. That’s when Wright recalled that the Rodriguez kids pulled up in an Uber because the family didn’t own a car.

Four months later, Wright asked Samantha to drop by his office. Once there, she saw the same group of well-wishers she’d met at Christmastime. This time, though, Wright told Samantha that an anonymous group of donors had come forward with a gift. He then showed Samantha a picture of a brand new car and said it was hers.

As Samantha recalls, “I was in shock! This is so crazy!”

The department helped Samantha get auto insurance and took her to a nearby dealership to pick up the shiny new Nissan Sentra. Samantha thanked the donors profusely, stating, “You don’t know how much this means to us! This is such a big help. Doing everything on my own is very hard, but I'm so happy to have people like you in my life.”

Beaming happiness, Samantha said the car is a “blessing to my family” that alleviates the huge financial burden of having to rely on ride-share services. She added that the Sentra will also enable her siblings to participate in sports and after-school programs.

“I will help bring my family closer together,” Samantha told a reporter. “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.”

Major Deputy Jason Sams also expressed gratitude, as well, saying, “We have a great community that not only supports the OSCO but the community. This is just everyday citizens in Orange County who were doing this."

Finally, Samantha added, "It gave me so much inspiration to do better for other people. Other amazing people came into our life like this and they didn't have to. We are so grateful."

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