|Salli places the star at the top of the Christmas tree as a Dearborn firefighter lifts her up.|
DEARBORN — “I really feel like I have a family right now,” Mona El-Darnouh said while decorating the new Christmas tree Dearborn firefighters surprised her family with on Sunday.
While handing El-Darnouh an ornament to put on the tree, firefighter Jeff Powell replied, “that is what the holiday is all about. We got your back.”
Powell and fellow firefighters Dave Mclean and Matt Ferrell visited the family’s home last weekend with Santa to deliver food, gifts and the tree. The firefighters also brought packages of ornaments to help decorate the tree. El-Darnouh has loved Christmas since she lived in Lebanon. The tree was donated by Agata Crapanzano, who visited the family with the firefighters and her three children to surprise them with it.
This is the second time Dearborn firefighters helped the family. In late November, they surprised El-Darnouh and her three children, Batoul Aljebori, 12; Mohamad Aljebori, 7 and Salli Aljebori, 5, with beds and furniture that were donated and delivered by Gardner White. The family had been sleeping on the floor. During the visit, Dearborn firefighters also distributed essential items to the family.
“They made me cry, because no one has helped me like them,” El-Darnouh said. “I never thought that somebody was going to help me like this. I wouldn’t have been able to buy couches and furniture for another four years because of my financial situation. If I have to say thank you to the Dearborn firefighters for the rest of my life, it is not going to be enough.”
Salli is in kindergarten and being home schooled because she is being treated for a rare disease called aplastic anemia.
Batoul was Salli’s bone marrow donor when she underwent a bone marrow transplant. Thank God for Batoul, she saved her life,” El-Darnouh said.
El-Darnouh, a single mother, is not working because of Salli’s condition. She frequently makes visits to Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor where Salli goes for treatment.
The Dearborn firefighters found out about the family’s living condition after they were contacted by Fatme Faraj, the principal of Maples Elementary School.
“I went to the school to thank the principal personally,” El-Darnouh said. “I told her ‘thank you’ face-to-face. She really stood by me and she didn’t leave me. She is so nice.”
The principal stopped by the family’s home after El-Darnouh called the school and told them her son couldn’t attend for a day because he wasn’t feeling well.
“I guess when she noticed I didn’t have any furniture or beds she decided to help me,” El-Darnouh said.
“There was a lot of pressure on Mohamed,” she added. “He was emotionally distressed. I can’t blame him, because everything at my home makes him sad, mad and nervous. He wanted to stay with me. If I tell you why he wanted to help me at home, you wouldn’t believe it. He wanted to stay home to help me take care of his sister.”
The Dearborn Fire Department helped the family through the Dearborn Firefighters Burn Drive, a non-profit organization that helps children and families.
“At least they are trying to make kids healthy, El-Darnouh said, adding that her children were very cranky because they didn’t have beds to sleep on.
Dearborn firefighters were expected to stop by El-Darnouh’s home again on Tuesday with another surprise for the family.
They also invited the family to take part in the city’s annual Shop with a Hero program, where children from Dearborn Public Schools get to shop with a police or firefighter at Wal-Mart with a free $100 gift certificate.
“It is the best time of year,” Powell said. “It is good to see families that are so grateful. All of us have been touched by the family’s story. I have and so have the teachers.”
One of the children’s teachers from Dearborn Public Schools plans on taking El-Darnouh shopping.
El-Darnouh said she turned to two area mosques for help, but didn’t have any luck.
“I went to the Islamic House of Knowledge on Schaefer a few times and the Islamic Center of America on Ford Road and no one would help me,” she said. “When I called the Islamic Center they said, ‘we are broke and don’t have money.'”
While the Christmas presents and gifts are helpful, El-Darnouh’s family is still in need of financial assistance and experiencing difficulty paying for one of Salli’s medications.
“Thank you for your help and everything you’ve done for us,” Batoul said. You don’t how much it means.”
“They deserve the best because of what good people they are,” El-Darnouh said of the firefighters.
To donate to the Dearborn Firefighters Burn Drive to make the holidays better for other needy families, visit dearbornff.org
To reach out to the family, email Natasha@arabamericannews.com.
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