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All expenses paid

John HartRachel Prendez plays with her daughter, Erica Prendez, age 15 months, on the slide at the Hennessy School playground in Grass Valley Oct. 26.
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Rachel Prendez learned this week that Nevada County residents have big hearts.

The Grass Valley mother needed to come up with $1,800 so she could take time off from her job at Golden Empire Convalescent Hospital to care for her 15-month-old daughter Erica before, during and after nerve reconstruction surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

Hospital staff told Prendez to expect to stay in Houston for seven days.



Born with Erb’s Palsy, or brachial plexus injury, Erica can’t bend her left elbow or lift her arm. If the surgery on Dec. 4 is successful, the range of motion in Erica’s arm and shoulder will increase significantly.

On Wednesday, the day after an article ran in The Union stating that Prendez needed to raise $1,800 to take her daughter to the hospital’s Brachial Plexus Clinic, 25 Nevada County residents mailed a total of $1,700.




Twenty-nine checks totalling $1,225 arrived in Thursday’s mail, and 12 checks totalling $650 arrived Friday, resulting in a grand total of $3,575 as of Friday night. All but a handful of the 66 donors are from Nevada County, and none know the Prendezes.

The checks were sent to Foothills Healthy Babies, a Nevada City nonprofit organization that helps overburdened families of newborns, because of its involvement with the Prendez family when Erica was born

“I’m astounded. Totally astounded. I’m very grateful. I didn’t expect it,” said Prendez, who wanted to cry with relief.

Now she can focus on making Erica more comfortable about the upcoming surgery, instead of worrying about expenses.

“It makes me think Nevada County residents are just wonderful. This has made my life a lot easier. I’m not worried about my finances, and I can take care of my kids.”

Family support specialist Marge Biddle of Foothill Healthy Babies is also astounded with the community’s quick response.

“Last week, I thought if she got $400 I’d be amazed. I just didn’t expect that kind of response. What a wonderfully caring community. Thanks to everyone,” Biddle said.

In addition to money, Jim Phillipson, owner of A-1 Water Systems in Grass Valley, wanted to help out by giving plane tickets to Prendez.

“We raised seven children. God’s been so good to us. My wife Leora and I want to pass something on to Rachel,” Phillipson said. “God gave Rachel a gift (Erica). That child will touch so many people. Just think how many people that child will touch; it’s unbelievable. Look at all the people who have already responded to that child this week.”

Now Prendez is looking beyond her child’s own needs to helping other families.

“If I receive enough extra money, I want to give a certificate to Foothills Healthy Babies to help the other families the organization follows for Christmas,” Prendez said.

The agency will continue to hold the money for Erica’s future operations and medical expenses. Dr. Rahul Nath, who will perform the surgery, said last week in Houston that her injuries are permanent and require lifelong management.

“Thank you and God bless everyone who helped me,” Prendez said. “I’m not stressed anymore. I am so happy. I had nowhere to turn. I’ve lived here all my life; I’ve gone through homelessness, and I’ve been in situations where I thought nobody cared. This has restored my faith in mankind.”


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