Ever since Frances Alvarez started going to the Spinal Cord Living-Assistance Development, staff members in the charity group noticed that she was different. Her good humor and determination to move ahead made her stand out.
The 25-year-old North Miami Beach woman started to lose her sight at age 10, when doctors detected a brain tumor that could not be totally removed. The tumor later affected her mobility.
But her physical problems did not keep her from graduating from high school or taking part in community activities. Today, she has only partial vision in her right eye.
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Alvarez wants to continue improving her life but needs a DaVinci Pro, a special computer for people who are blind or nearly blind that costs $3,000. But the $733 a month and food coupons she receives in government assistance are barely enough to contribute to the home she shares with her parents and two younger brothers.
“There’s nothing left over. But I want to work and earn a salary and move ahead,” said Alvarez, who was born in Puerto Rico. “If I can’t be a nurse, I am open to any other type of work. It’s all a matter of trying.”
Her father, Andres Alvarez, said he started working only a few days ago as a chef in a Boca Raton restaurant, and the family cannot afford the computer.
“We’re a low-income family and cannot spend money on the equipment that she needs. It’s too expensive,” Alvarez said. “She never asks for help, but in this case she really needs it.”
Alvarez’s step-mother, Gloria Calix, who works at a Burger King, said she really needs the computer.
“She can barely see,” said Calix, who raised Alvarez from long before the brain tumor was detected. “I have been with her through thick and thin. Thank God she always managed to overcome the crises. I hope her wish comes through.”
Alvarez’s wish for the computer reached Adriana Sarcos, a staffer at the spinal cord center in Hialeah, which assists low-income people with physical disabilities. Sarcos forwarded her case to Angelina Rodriguez, the group’s programs director.
Rodriguez contacted El Nuevo Herald’s Wish Book to seek assistance from readers. Spinal Cord Living-Assistance Development Inc. has been providing free assistance to hundreds of low-income people since its founding in 1985. It has been collaborating with Wish Book for more than 10 years.
“Frances is full of hope. Her positive spirit and sense of humor have kept her up, something admirable in a handicapped person. That’s why I thought she was an ideal candidate for Wish Book,” Rodriguez said. “If she gets the computer she needs, it would open a world of opportunities for her.”
Sarcos added that many of her clients fall into depression and refuse to accept their disabilities. But that’s not the case of Alvarez.
“Frances never behaves like a victim. Her life is normal. Her attitude is admirable,” she said.
She also never gets bored. When she’s not exercising on the special rowing machine for the disabled at the Miami Beach Rowing Club, Alvarez goes to Homestead Air Reserve Park to ride a hand-cranked bicycle.
“I participated in five competitions. But I decided to take a break after I had surgery on my right hand,” Alvarez said. She has also volunteered at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital near South Miami, playing with children or acting as a patient in emergency drills.
“I always try to do things. And when I can’t, I try to find some way to do it, because if I don’t try I will never know my limits,” Alvarez said. “I’m like Dory, the little fish in the movie “Finding Nemo” who always says ‘keep swimming.’ ... Even if it’s difficult. We can’t give up.’”
Follow Arturo Arias-Polo: @arturoariaspolo
How to help: Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. To give via your mobile phone, text WISH to 41444. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com. (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.
How to help
Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. To give via your mobile phone, text WISH to 41444. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com. (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.