The best gift the Ferralez family of Oak Forest received this Christmas was recent news that their young daughter’s cancer is in remission.
But battling cancer exacts a toll beyond the disease itself, including serious financial burdens. The family was about to lose its car.
Then help arrived from a Homewood business, and it wasn’t something that would fit under a Christmas tree.
On Thursday morning, Chevrolet of Homewood presented the Ferralez family with a brand new Chevrolet Sonic, paid the sales taxes and obtained insurance on the car.
“Get in the car. Beep the horn,” said dealership owner Steve Phillipos.
The youngest Ferralez, Liv, obliged. She got in the car. She beeped the horn. She beeped it a few more times for good measure before turning the driver’s seat over to her sister, Joselyn, whose hair is just beginning to grow back following chemotherapy for her cancer.
The gift was the result of a contest that is part of the dealership’s community service program, Homewood Chevy Cares, according to Tina Lonkar, Internet sales manager. More than 300 entries were considered in the contest.
“Homewood Chevy Cares is about giving back to the community,” she said. “It’s about giving to a family in need. It’s about giving somebody a fresh start.”
The Ferralez family’s challenges began during the summer. A week after closing on a new home they learned Joselyn had non-Hodgkins lymphoma, according to her dad, Ray Ferralez.
During the next few months the family focused on supporting Joselyn as she underwent treatment. Ray and his wife, Dawn, were unable to work for long periods. He works for Applied Industries Technology, and Dawn who works for Skolnik Industries.
They came close to losing their new home, Ray said.
Through the difficult experience the family found support from its community and from Ray’s and Dawn’s employers.
During the presentation Thursday, Phillipos thanked all the participants in the contest.
He lauded the Ferralez family’s strength and courage.
“You guys have changed our lives, I know that for sure,” Phillipo said. “You’ve changed thousands of lives everywhere.”
Ferralez said the family credits a great community and the generous gift from Chevrolet of Homewood for helping them through the tough times.
In the video they recorded during the second phase of the contest, Ray’s narration focuses on the family’s blessings and offers gratitude for all the help they received.
“If it wasn’t for our community, we would have lost our home,” he said Thursday.
The car-giveaway contest began with a three-week period starting Nov. 1 during which area residents could nominate someone to be considered for the car by submitting a 200-word essay describing the person’s or family’s need.
Rather than selecting from the nominations, the dealership invited the public to vote.
Five of the more than 300 nominations were chosen to be finalists. The finalists each created a video presenting their situations, and voting was opened for 10 days to select the winner.
Lonkar said the contest got more attention than company officials expected.
“It hit social media and it went haywire,” she said.
Eventually more than 23,000 votes were cast. Votes were limited to one per day per computer IP address.
“What really touched me the most, it was bringing people together for a good cause,” Lonkar said.
Chevrolet of Homewood owner Steve Phillipos invites nominations to the contest: (Homewood Chevy Cares video)
The Ferralez family’s video entry in the second phase of the contest: