THORNTON, Colo. — A Thornton family of nine children was left to fend for themselves after their mother's sudden death.
At least, that is what they felt like, until Denver7 Gives viewers heard their story and donated an unprecedented amount for a single family.
When we first told you about the Torres family in November, Monica Torres, 19, was worried about paying bills after her mother's sudden death. She put her plans on hold to move back into the family's Thornton home.
"The Torres family, they're a special group. They knew when mom was gone that they would have to stick together," said Greg Mirelez, a youth advocate with Adams 12 Five Star Schools, who learned the two older daughters, Monica and Jordan, were struggling to pay a $1,600 water bill. "They're trying to be adults. Adulting is hard."
So he reached out to The Butterfly Foundation, a nonprofit that helps families coping with tragedy.
"I just thought I would like to do something bigger than pay a water bill," said Sandy Jones, the executive director of The Butterfly Foundation. "I knew that I needed a groundswell of support."
That's where Denver7 Gives generous viewers came in. The Butterfly Foundation promised to match the first $2,500 in viewer donations.
They did not expect what happened next.
"After the story, the calls and emails just started pouring in," Jones said. "People just wanted to help."
It started with a check from the Thornton Firefighter's Union, IAFF Local 2376.
"We heard your story and the sacrifice you are all making, and we know a little something about sacrifice," said Jonathan Bailey, the union's president. "We want to try to help ease the burden you all are facing."
The Thornton Police Union, FOP Lodge 16, also stepped up to give the family a generous $1,000 check.
"We had a bunch of our members reach out and say we've got to help these guys," said Levi Husk, the lodge president.
Every year, the Thornton Police Department participates in the Christmas Crusade for Children. This year, Thornton PD and iLending DIRECT asked for the Torres family's Christmas wish list and checked off every single item.
For nine-year-old Jason Torres, getting the only present he wanted, a baby Yoda doll, brought some much needed joy after a difficult year.
"I've never seen that much presents in my whole life," Jason said. "People could have spent this money on other things, but no, they took their time out of their day to donate to us."
In years past, the family went to see Christmas lights with their mother, so this year Holiday Light Professionals covered the Torres home in holiday lights.
"My wife found your story online, and we knew we had to do something," said Ken Medina, owner of Holiday Light Professionals.
Of course, this all started with a water bill. The Butterfly Foundation took care of that.
"I am here to tell you I went online, and I paid that bill," Jones said. "Your balance is zero dollars."
The Butterfly Foundation also gave the family $1,000 in Walmart gift cards.
Several companies stepped up to donate supplies and services. Fuzion Field Services dropped off a roll-off dumpster after finding out the family needed help getting clutter out of the house for a fresh start. Maeve Heitman with Matthew Morris Salon DTC donated hair products and haircuts for the entire family.
"You're all real strong and I look up to you a whole bunch," Heitman said. "And I love your hair, Monica."
Colorado Auto Finders located and helped pay for a used Toyota Highlander with a 2-year warranty.
Meanwhile, Denver7 Gives viewers wanted to make sure this family is taken care of for a long time, so their donations paid for the family's next year of internet service, a $2,700 Comcast bill.
Finally, Denver7 Gives, with the help of the Law Offices of M. Kent Olsen and The Butterfly Foundation, created a trust for the family's health, welfare and educational expenses, donating $35,000.
"There's a whole bank account that's going to be set up for anything that you need as you go through this, so I don't want you do be stressed for another day," Jones said. "We got you."
Monica said other groups have also donated clothing, furniture and food.
"I just want to say thank you because things have been really hard since we lost our mom," Monica said. "I'm starting to think that we're just only going to come up from here. To the Denver7 Gives viewers, I just want to say that I am so grateful for every single one of you. It will change our life forever. We're always going to remember this."
Denver7 features the stories of people who need help and now you can help them with a cash donation through Denver7 Gives. One hundred percent of contributions to the fund will be used to help people in our local community.