Car donation eases journey for Central California teen battling cancer

VISALIA, Calif. (KABC) -- It's been a tough ride for a Central California teenager battling cancer. So, a group of people came together to help make his journey a whole lot easier.

Since being diagnosed with osteosarcoma a year ago, Diego Jimenez, 14, would frequently wake up at 3 a.m. to board a bus from his home in Visalia to make it to the City of Hope in Duarte for treatment.

Kim Savage with Megan's Wings, a nonprofit group that helps cancer patients and their families, recommended Diego and his family for the "Recycled Rides" program.

"There couldn't be a more humble and deserving family for this wonderful gift," Savage said.

Farmers Insurance donated a car, and a team at Caliber Collision-Monrovia volunteered to refurbish it.

The regional director for Caliber Collision, Rachel Delgado, said all Diego ever asked for were for items to help his mother.

"For restaurant gift cards so his mom wouldn't have to cook because she's so tired from having to take care of him and take care of the other kids," Delgado said.

Many other businesses donated glass, tires, tinting and auto parts.

When everything ready, Diego and his family members were presented with a shiny new 2013 Hyundai Sonata. Well-wishers applauded as Diego stepped into the vehicle.

It was almost too much for the young cancer patient to take in.

"It feels great. I wasn't really expecting them to actually go this far as to give me a car," Diego said.

To date, the program has given away 150 cars.

"It takes a village to help cure a patient, and that's basically what this is all about. It's not just the people at City of Hope. It's all of you who are helping us," said Diego's physician, Dr. Judith K. Sato of City of Hope.

Osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone cancer that can lead to fractures and tumors. In Diego's case, it led to serious infections that almost lost him his leg. Those four-hour bus rides from Visalia added to his pain.

The car and other donated items will go a long way to help ease his family's stress. It's all so overwhelming for Diego, who has hardly had a thought for himself.

"I told my mom that God gives his biggest challenge to his bravest warriors," Diego said.
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