Stricken Texas family gets Oak Park boost

After car crash, orphaned kids left unable to walk

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

A tragic auto accident earlier this month in Texas left two parents dead and their two young sons paralyzed from the waist down. Now the two boys are being uprooted from their home in Houston, and transported a thousand miles away to stay in Oak Park while undergoing their recovery.

Joshua Berry, 41, and his wife Robin, 40, were killed instantly in the head-on collision, the evening of July 2, according to the Jewish-Herald Voice newspaper. Their 6-year-old daughter Willa suffered a broken arm, while Aaron, 8, and Peter, 9, were left unable to walk.

Following the crash, the community mobilized, donating clothes and meals to the children, and hosting fundraisers that have raised tens of thousands of dollars for the family.

Last week, the two Berry boys were relocated to Oak Park to begin their treatment at Shriners Hospital for Children, located just north of the village in Chicago. Houston's Jewish community reached out to counterparts in the Oak Park area, who are doing anything they can to help, said Rabbi Robin Damsky of West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest.

They, along with Oak Park Temple, helped secure two furnished apartments, free of charge, for the family to use during the six or so weeks they're staying here. West Suburban Temple is accepting donations to help the family. They can be mailed to 1040 N. Harlem Ave.

"We're just trying to figure out what the family's needs are," Damsky said. "It's an incredibly loving family, and they're completely concerned about doing whatever it takes to support these boys and to be there for them during a serious crisis."

The children's aunt and uncle, Simone and Matt Berry, have now taken over as their legal guardians. Matt Berry, 39, who is Joshua's younger brother, is in Houston with Aaron, and plans to travel to Oak Park sometime this week. Meanwhile, his wife is already staying at Shriners with Peter. The youngest child, Willa, will remain in Texas with family friends, according to Matt Berry, who said the two boys are doing OK, given the circumstances, and are beginning to learn to get around on their own in wheelchairs.

"They're holding on and fighting and wanting to recover as much as possible," Berry said.

Michael Duke, an associate editor for the family-owned Jewish-Herald Voice, said the story has completely captivated the community in Houston. Web traffic has exploded on their site, and they've written dozens of stories on the Berry family tragedy, trying to keep the public informed on how they can help

"As a reporter, it's inspiring," Duke said of the community response. "One of the questions people have asked through this whole thing is, 'Where was God in this tragedy?' And rabbis have said, 'We see God in the response. We see God in how complete strangers are giving up their own time and some pretty significant resources toward making sure these kids have what they need.'"

Coping has been difficult for the whole family, but the support has helped them get by.

"When you're trying to deal with something like this by yourself it would just ..." Berry said, trailing off. "It's overwhelming, even with the support. And with the support, it makes it somewhat tolerable. We're obviously in deep awe of how the community's come together. It's been really amazing."

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Sharon Runnels from Grandville  

Posted: August 22nd, 2011 7:14 PM

I met these amazing boys and their grandmother last weekend at the Shriners Hospital in Oak Park, Ill. My grandson was having surgery and recovering. My prayers are with the family through these most difficult times!

cherry le from san diego  

Posted: July 30th, 2011 9:58 PM

I feel so bad and and i don't now what ill do if i was put in these kids shoes i'm praying and all my love and care is with them

Jg Morales  

Posted: July 28th, 2011 10:26 AM

This is such a tragic story. I hope these children receive all the love and care they need.

Melissa from  

Posted: July 27th, 2011 8:38 PM

Thank you for sharing this story of this incredibly strong family and the outpouring of love and support from caring people.

Ally from Houston  

Posted: July 27th, 2011 4:09 PM

I can't believe that. I am donating to them. I hope their okay and nothing else happens. :/

Hope & Prayers from friday harbor  

Posted: July 27th, 2011 3:09 PM

God bless that the kids are safe. the family will be in my prayers aslong as its needed.

O P  

Posted: July 26th, 2011 10:43 PM

God Bless these kids and their care takers. Wow, What a tragedy.

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