Prayers, donations pour in for children of Jersey City couple killed in tornado
By Cristina DC Pastor
Americans and Filipinos alike are opening their hearts, and wallets, to three children who lost their parents July 24 when a tornado swept through a campsite in Cheriton, Virginia. The tornado hit a tree that toppled on the tent of sleeping Jersey City couple killing Lord Balatbat and his wife Lolibeth Ortega.
At least three fundraising campaigns have been organized for the orphaned Balatbat children, who suffered some injuries. The only son remains in critical condition in a Virginia hospital.
The Filipino American Friendship Committee of Jersey City was able to raise $3,450 from a morning fundraiser on August 2, PAFCOM treasurer Ledy Almadin told The FilAm. Regular passers-by dropped checks and small amounts of cash inside a cardboard box that sat on a long table in front of the University Charter High School on West Side Ave. The fundraiser was held around the same time as the funeral mass for the couple at Our Lady of Mercy Parish on Sullivan Drive.
One of the contributors was an American family with three children. The father said his daughter was donating $160 of her own savings to the Balatbat Children’s Fund, as recounted by Almadin.
She said the money collected would be turned over to Lolibeth Ortega’s sister who has pledged to care for her nephew and nieces.
Meanwhile, a Go Fund Me campaign has been organized by Balatbat’s co-worker at Walgreens Jersey City, where he works as an assistant manager. (Lolibeth is employed at Quest Diagnostics.) The campaign has so far received donations amounting to $22,686, exceeding its funding goal of $20K. Walgreens employee Mohsin Khan, who set up the campaign, said he received permission from the Balatbat family to create the Go Fund Me page called ‘In Memory of Lord and Lolibeth Balatbat.’
“All funds raised will be transferred to a trust fund in the name of the children that will be created by their legal guardian,” he said.
Khan described the couple, married 14 years, as “fun loving, free spirited, caring, outgoing, and giving.”
“(They’re) just an overall awesome couple that enjoyed life and loved smiling. They were the nicest people you could have ever known. They were truly in love and enjoyed being parents,” to their children Lheandrew Lloyd, 14; Lharieza Anne, 12; and Lheanna Lynn, 7. Khan said Lheandrew remains in a coma.
“We ask you keep the kids of Lord and Lolibeth Balatbat in your prayers,” he said.
The owner of the campsite, Cherrystone Family Camping and RV Resort, where the Balatbat family was spending their annual vacation, has also organized its own fundraising. The Cherrystone website says a ‘Balatbat-Ortega Children’s Fund’ has been established, and that donations may be mailed or delivered to:
Balatbat-Ortega Children’s Fund
PO Box 623
Onley, VA 23418
The funds — $16K as of press deadline — will be turned over to the children’s court-appointed guardian.
“As we attempt to clean up and move forward, our thoughts and prayers are daily with the families of the couple who lost their lives and with all of our guests who were injured,” says the Cherrystone website.
At a viewing held August 1 at the Greenville Memorial Home on Danforth Avenue, Almadin said the two daughters were present. Older daughter Lharieza Anne’s leg was in a cast, but 7-year-old Lheanna Lynn was running around and playing.
“They’re too young to lose their parents,” said Almadin.
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