Editor’s note: This article was written by The Dalles Police Chief Patrick Ashmore.
In mid-October, a gentleman came in to The Dalles Police Department with a found wallet. Officer Joe Lick happened to be at the station writing reports and spoke to the man.
That exchange weeks ago sparked an outpouring of community support that came to fruition just a few days ago for a hardy local family that has seen more than its share of difficult times.
That Sunday back in October, the man told Officer Lick he found the wallet near the jungle gym by the swimming pool. Several kids nearby said it wasn’t theirs, so he headed to the police department.
There was still some money in it, the man said, and he was hoping it could be returned to its owner.
Inside the soaking wet camo DaKine wallet, Officer Lick found $5 in ones, an ID from 2014 with a picture of a boy and a woman’s name and address handwritten on the back.
Two-year-old information is rarely current, but Officer Lick called the number anyway, and was surprised when the woman answered.
Officer Lick told the woman her wallet had been found and was ready for her to pick up at the police station.
She said she didn’t have a car and asked if he could drop it off. He agreed.
He met her and learned the wallet was lost two days earlier. Officer Lick thought it was amazing the wallet had sat undisturbed for two days.
She told him the wallet belonged to her son Francisco. She called him to the door, and Officer Lick noticed the boy had trouble walking.
Francisco greeted him with a big smile and said, “You’re a cop aren’t you?” Officer Lick smiled and told him that he was.
When he was told that the officer was returning his wallet, Francisco insisted to his mom that he still had it. Then his mom reminded him that he had offered to use his birthday money to pay for the taxi home, and that’s when it must’ve fallen out.
Officer Lick’s heart sank. This 10-year-old boy had $5 to his name and wanted to give it to his mom so she didn’t have to pay for the taxi ride back home. Officer Lick asked her why she didn’t have a car. She explained a drunk driver had hit their car while it was parked in front of their house a month ago. She said they didn’t have enough money to get a new car with the money they received for insurance as they have been in and out of the hospital with Francisco.
Then the mom, Wanona Reynoso, told Officer Lick that Francisco has a rare form of bone cancer with only 120 cases reported yearly in the U.S. and Canada. She said he had trouble walking and was going through chemo.
While she explained this to Officer Lick, he tried not letting her see his emotion. You see, Officer Lick has a son of his own and couldn’t possibly imagine the heartbreak of living in the unknown about what the next day may bring with a disease like the one Francisco and his family are living with. They all talked for a bit more, then Officer Lick cleared.
The family recently learned Francisco is in remission. Treatment was very rough. He was rushed to the hospital at least a dozen times with fever, which he developed after every chemo treatment.
In fact, it was the night before his last chemo treatment that their car was totaled. Fortunately, Wanona had already scheduled medical transport.
Now, Francisco has metal bones in his left leg, and sometimes he sits on his bed and cries, his mom said. “He wants his bone back,” she said, “and it makes me cry because I can’t do anything about it. It’s been a very bumpy road.”
She took time off from her job at the Safeway deli while he was getting treatment and just recently got back to work.
In the following days Officer Lick could not stop thinking about Francisco, Wanona, and their family. They have had a series of unfortunate and uncontrollable events that had put them in a difficult place.
Lick was amazed how positive Wanona, her husband, and Francisco were, even though their situation appeared so sad and heartbreaking. They were so thankful that Officer Lick brought them Francisco’s wallet, with $5 in it.
Wanona was grateful she even answered Officer Lick’s call. The number popped up as “unknown” on her phone, and because of a rough patch some years ago when they got behind on their bills and faced collection, she usually doesn’t answer such calls. This time she did.
Officer Lick decided to return to the house the next week to talk with the family some more. Wanona answered the door worried that something had happened. Officer Lick told her that everything was fine, that he wanted to help the family out. Wanona smiled, and asked her kids to come to the door. Francisco came out and her younger son Benito, age 8, did as well.
Officer Lick found out Benito has autism that was discovered shortly after Francisco was diagnosed with cancer in October 2015. Benito was ecstatic to see Officer Lick, though they had never met before. Wanona told Officer Lick that Benito loves cops, and cop cars, and gets really excited whenever he sees them.
Officer Lick asked Francisco and Benito if they’d like to check out his police car.
They both said yes and played with the lights and siren, and asked about the equipment in the police car. While they were playing, Officer Lick asked Wanona what the family needed. Wanona was reluctant at first, but said they would really like a manual wheelchair for Francisco, in case there is an emergency and they needed to leave the house quickly. Officer Lick asked her if there was anything else the family could use help with. Wanona said she couldn’t really think of anything. It was obvious to Officer Lick that the frequent trips to the hospital, and the care both boys required had to be a financial burden. Officer Lick asked the boys if there was anything they wanted. They both said they liked Nerf guns, board games, and the “pie face game.”
Officer Lick was amazed at the contentment and pure happiness this entire family displayed. It was obvious this was a humble family that was content with what they had and was hesitant to accept help, even when asked.
Officer Lick said he would make arrangements to have the boys ride in a police car for the Starlight Parade. Wanona said the boys would love that.
Again, Officer Lick was inspired to think of this family that had so many unfortunate things happen to them that he began networking within the community of The Dalles to find things that would help this family out.
Officer Lick contacted a person he knew, Tara Pray at the Oregon Veteran Home (OVH), and told her about the family. Tara didn’t hesitate and contacted a company called KEEN. Once she explained the situation to KEEN representatives, they were more than happy to donate a manual wheelchair for Francisco.
Several days later the wheelchair was delivered by Tara and Officer Lick to Francisco. He was so happy to see it he asked Officer Lick to push him around in it and had a smile from ear to ear. Officer Lick said it was moving to see how happy “that one thing” made this family.
Pray was also inspired; her compassion did not stop there. She, with the assistance of OVH, got the family a donated Thanksgiving dinner, and the family was chosen by OVH to be one of their sponsored Christmas families. Several others from OVH have also donated to this family, and the family has said they will forever be grateful for what OVH has done for them.
Officer Lick came back to the police department and told the story about this family, and the response from the police staff was amazing. The generosity shown by the officers and support staff that work for The Dalles Police was “off the charts.” Gift cards, money, and gifts for the boys were collected within a couple days.
The community generosity did not stop there. Griffith Motors was made aware of the family’s situation. Tammy McVane, the general manager, immediately went on a hunt to find a vehicle that would suit the family’s needs. Dave Griffith Motors generously donated an all-wheel drive van, along with paying for all the DMV vehicle registration fees. Hattenhauer Distributing Co. then donated a gas card for the family that will provide fuel for several “fill ups” of the family’s new van.
On Tuesday, Officer Lick pulled up to the residence with the donated van and met with Wanona, her husband, Francisco Sr., and the two boys. Officer Lick told the boys he had a couple toys for them and delivered the Nerf guns and a couple board games.
Officer Lick told Wanona that there were a couple other donations from the community that he wanted to share with her. He delivered the “lute” that had been donated. The last thing he pulled out was the gas gift card from Hattenhauer Distributing. Wanona looked confused and hesitantly took the gas card. Officer Lick told her that was for the family’s new van and handed her the keys. There was not a dry eye as Wanona, her husband, and the boys cried, laughed, and didn’t have words to express what they were feeling. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” is all Wanona could say. The family said they feel truly blessed to have been shown the generosity shown by this community.
Wanona said, “I would almost put Joey [Lick] in the category of guardian angel. He’s done more for us in more ways than people can imagine.”
Francisco Sr. said, “I pray every single night. Sometimes you lose the faith.” But his faith has been restored, he said. “I have more than you can ask for. It’s God’s will, but you have to learn, it’s [given] in another way” than you ask.
Every person, business, and public servant went above and beyond what could have been asked of them to help this family in their time of need. Officer Lick said he would have never thought by talking to just a few people about this family, how caring and giving everyone would be. Every single person and business mentioned in this story needs to know the impact that they have had on this family.
Officer Lick said what he gained from this is the understanding that no matter how bad a situation is, or how many bad things are thrown at you at once, you can find ways to get through it. While speaking with Wanona, she stated that her faith had been stretched and she was beginning to doubt it. She said through this experience, her faith has been renewed.
Our small community came together and will hopefully change Wanona and her family’s lives forever. We want to thank everyone who came together to make this all happen, and I want to think Wanona, Francisco Sr., Francisco, and Benito for inspiring all of us.
As a side note, this all came together because one caring citizen of this community took the time to return a wallet to the police department.
That man, Craig Hector, was shocked and moved to hear about all that had happened because he simply did what he said was the right thing to do. He plans to call Officer Lick to see if he can also help out the family somehow.
“It’s nice to know some people are getting help that need it,” Hector said. “And we have some good police officers in the area, it’s a good troop.”
I want to personally thank Craig Hector for his “one good deed” that led to this community coming together and positively impacting a much deserving family. Oh and yes, Francisco and Benito will be riding in a police car for the Starlight Parade, so please come out and support them.