Entertainment And News

Meet The 20-Year-Old Florida Woman Who Has Been Raising Her Five Siblings Since Both Parents Died — Her Inspiring Story

Photo: Facebook
Who Is Samantha Rodriguez? New Details On The 20-Year-Old Florida Woman Raising Her Five Siblings Since Their Parents Died

Now here's a feel-good Florida story, for a change: when the Rodriguez family suffered an unbelievable tragedy, many thought that the five younger siblings — who ranged in ages from 5 to 17 — would go into the Florida foster care system. But when the 20-year-old eldest sibling stepped in, she changed their lives forever. Who is Samantha Rodriguez?

Let's look at what we know about this bittersweet story. 

1. Her parents died within five years of each other. 

According to CNN, Samantha Rodriguez's mother and father died within 5 years of one another. When they passed away, Samantha moved to Orange County, Florida, to be near her brothers and sisters. 

"I knew what I had to do," Rodriguez said about her decision to raise her brothers and sisters. "I learned so much from my mom. I was like her sidekick. I learned what it meant to raise a family." She moved with her siblings to Orange County, Florida, because their grandmother lived there. But resources were scarce and Rodriquez had to grow up fast. "It can be tough knowing when to be like a parent and when to be their sister," she said. "Sometimes it can feel like I'm alone," reported the outlet.

2. Samantha Rodriguez's story inspired the Orange County Sheriff's Department to throw the family a Christmas party. 

According to The Good News Network, when word got out about Samantha Rodriguez's commitment to keeping her family together, the Orange County Sheriff's Department threw her and her family a Christmas party. 

"The officers orchestrated a surprise Christmas party for the youngsters at the police station. When the kids walked through the doors of the facility, they were shocked to see dozens of gift-wrapped presents waiting for them under a Christmas tree," they wrote.

RELATED: Celebrating Marriage: 15 Stories That Inspire

3. The community has also organized a fundraiser. 

According to People Magazine, after their mother died of cervical cancer and their father died of lymphoma, the Rodriguez children got a lot of support from the community, who organized a fundraiser on their behalf. 

"A fundraiser set up on the family’s behalf has so far raised more than $38,000 from church friends, neighbors and strangers around the world. “I am so blown away by the help we’ve received,” says Samantha, who works nights as a waitress at a nearby restaurant to help pay the bills. “It’s a reminder that everything will be okay,” reported the outlet.

4. The Orange County Sheriff's Office treated the family to a helicopter ride. 

According to Inside Edition, the Orange County Sheriff's Office even went above and beyond to make sure that the Rodriguez family felt special and to let Samantha Rodriguez especially know that she wasn't in this alone. One time, the family even got treated to a helicopter ride by the Orange County Sheriff's Office! It was, according to Fox News, after the Sheriff's office treated the family to a helicopter ride that other members of the community began reaching out to the family to offer their assistance. 

"Officers with the OCSO Aviation Unit invited the Rodriguez children to the station, where they thought they were receiving a tour of the facility, but when they arrived they were met with a room full of gifts. The initial story touched the community so much so that over the months that followed, several donors reached out to the sheriff’s office with a way to help the family," reported the outlet.

5. Samantha Rodriguez even got a car!

According to First Coast News, the best thing to come out of this entire tragedy was the car that she was gifted with from the community to help make her life a little easier. The community pooled together enough resources to get Samantha Rodriguez a new Nissan!

"Their story prompted a group of anonymous donors to step up and buy Rodriguez a Nissan Versa to help get her siblings around, according to the sheriff's office. “You don’t know how much this means to us. It’s such a big help, really. Doing everything on my own is very hard but I’m so glad to have people like you guys in my life,”  Rodriguez said when she was presented with the car," according to the outlet. 

What an inspiring story.

Bernadette Giacomazzo is an editor, writer, and photographer whose work has appeared in People, Teen Vogue, Us Weekly, The Source, XXL, HipHopDX, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, and more. She is also the author of The Uprising series. For more information about Bernadette Giacomazzo, click here.