LAKEWOOD, Colo. — When a loved one faces a life-threatening disease, the financial impacts are tremendous and that worry about money only adds to the emotional stress.
But 7Everyday Hero Jerry Caruso provides a quick solution for Colorado families.
"When I first started the charity I didn't even know what we were going to give to. And I was praying that the Lord would hit my heart with something. And I met a doctor who said, 'Mothers and fathers of sick children,'" Caruso said.
Caruso started Caruso Family Charities 12 years ago.
"We assist families that have a child with a terminal or life-threatening illness," explained Caruso.
The charity has helped more than 500 families facing a life alerting event — families like the Arterburns. They quickly faced a multitude of medical emergencies that required a lot of money.
"I am a single father. The girls' mother passed away from breast cancer in 2009. The girls were diagnosed with Friedreich's Ataxia, which falls under the Muscular Dystrophy umbrella," Donovan Arterburn said.
The debilitating disorder means all three of his daughters need wheelchairs and a lot of Donovan's help each day.
"So, I carry her (his daughter) out, put her in the chair, put her on the bus," Arterburn explained.
Donovan and his girls get by on subsidized housing, food stamps and hope. But even that can run thin.
"I hear songs on the radio and I think someday I'll hear that song and my kids won't be with me. So, it's kind of tough sometimes to deal with things," Donovan said, fighting back tears.
Caruso Family Charities bought the Arterburns a new car to help them get around more easily.
"We feel very fortunate to have come across these people," Donovan said, smiling.
The goal of Caruso Family Charities is to have an immediate impact before a family faces even more hardship.
"Families come to us when they're down to their last dollar, and they have to decide whether to pay the electric bill or a medical bill," said board member Julie Busch.
"We try to pay rent, we try to pay Xcel Energy, we try to pay some credit card bills, we buy tires, we repair cars and in a lot of instances we have actually purchased cars for families," Caruso said.
And the charity also focuses on the need of the siblings of those facing medical hardships.
"We try to take care of mom and dad and we're also very concerned about the siblings in the family because a lot of times they get pushed aside. So, music lessons, dance lessons, driving lessons, anything that the siblings need, we try to help them too," Caruso said.
Caruso owns his own business, Caruso Kitchens, but still finds time to help others.
"We just work 80 hours a week instead of 40," Caruso said.
"The families have told him so often that he's their angel, that they don't know what they would have done without him," Busch said.
"He is just constantly working to make this world better for the people who are struggling," said board member Barbara Goodman.
"Jerry is one of a kind and he puts everyone else before himself," said board member Frank DeAngelis.
Jerry Caruso says Caruso Family Charities is the answer to a prayer of his of wanting to give back. And it has been just as life changing for him as it has for others.
"I encourage everyone to quit saying 'no' and say 'yes' and give back," Caruso said.
To learn more about Caruso Family Charities go to www.carusofamilycharities.org.
Mitch Jelniker anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30 to 7 a.m. He also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Mitch on Facebook and Twitter. Nominate a 7Everyday Hero here.