By SHERIDAN ROY
One Southington family’s lives were drastically changed on Sept. 23, 2018 when a motor vehicle accident caused their nine year old daughter, Lucia Perez, to suffer a spinal cord injury, leaving her hospitalized and then in a rehabilitation facility out of state for months.
Lucia, a fourth grader at South End Elementary School, has not been back to school since the accident, but her school community has not forgotten her family’s struggles. On March 28, the school held a pasta dinner, raising over $5,000 for the Perez family.
“It was devastating when we heard the news. There was a shock around the whole school,” said South End principal Erin Nattrass. “This young girl walked out of school one day, and she still isn’t back yet.”
Over 300 people were expected to attend the pasta dinner that night.
“This family needs us right now,” said Nattrass. “Lucia is a fighter, and she has incredible family support. If this were another family that this happened to, the Perez family would be here helping us facilitate an event like this for that family.”
The Southington community heard the news about Lucia and her family, and came forward with support. Nearly all of the food—pasta, sauce, meatballs, salads, desserts, beverages and more—was donated from local restaurants. Dozens of raffle prizes including gift cards, gift baskets, movie tickets, and many others were donated as well.
“We are very fortunate to have community support like this,” said Lucia’s teacher Jill Brilla. “So many students, parents, staff and local businesses have chipped in to make this happen.”
Tables were decorated with tablecloths made from construction paper, covered with drawings and messages from students. Centerpieces were crafted by the art teacher.
South End teachers created their own raffle prizes, offering their own time to do various activities with students, such as baking cupcakes, extra gym time, playing board games and t-shirt making with a lucky student who won the raffle.
“Our motto at South End is we’re the smallest school with the biggest heart, and we really believe that,” said Brilla. “When one of our own has something they’re dealing with, we rally around them and show support. We want Lucia and her family to know that South End supports and loves them.”
Lucia is home now, but still unable to attend school. Brilla has been visiting her at home and keeping her in the loop with school activities and lessons.
“We are very thankful for this event and just at a loss for words,” said Lucia’s aunt, Kelly Thompson. “On behalf of the family, we are so grateful for this community coming together with amazing strength and support.”
Thompson’s son, Andrew, said one of his favorite memories with his cousin was visiting Lake Compounce. He said he hopes he and Lucia can go again, soon.
To make donations to support Lucia’s recovery, visit “Lucia Perez Recovery Fund” at www.gofundme.com/672yfts or mail donations to South End Elementary School ATTN Linda Iverson, 10 Maxwell Noble Dr., Plantsville, CT 06479. Checks should be made payable to Mr. and Mrs. Perez.