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Burke County middle schooler mourns loss of both parents to COVID

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 11:17 PM EDT
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BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A community is grieving alongside a Burke County Middle schooler who lost both parents to COVID just a week apart.

“He’s a special child he really really is I really hate this for him he is such a he was a sunshine in my day,” said Elise Peeples, seventh-grade English teacher at Burke County Middle School.

The family just moved to the area from Miami and now Larazo Menendez is living with his 90-year-old grandmother and 22-year-old sister.

They came here to start a new life. Their parents spent all of their money on a fixer-upper to build their family a brighter future in Burke County but now, their children are trying to figure out what that future looks like without their parents in it.

“Honestly I’m still completely in a state of shock I never expected to lose my parents this young and for them to lose their lives so young they were both 49,” said Kenia Penalba, daughter.

Her stepdad died in the hospital a week ago and her mom just a few days after.

“We had to say goodbye to my dad’s intubated body through a FaceTime call,” said Penalba. “And I never got to say goodbye to my mom and I didn’t get to talk to her because she was on a mask for oxygen so she could only text me and I only sent her a few texts before her phone died and I completely lost contact with her and they were my best friends.”

She is now responsible for taking care of her 90-year-old grandmother and 13-year-old brother Larazo.

“We’ve been here for like a month before this happened, when my mom found Waynesboro, Georgia she fell completely in love with it. She really wanted to give us a better life and it really hurts that as soon as she got to her dream place this all happened,” said Penalba.

She says they did everything right to stay safe - wore masks, social distanced, sanitized, but she says COVID found them anyway. And they waited too long to get vaccinated. Her mother had asthma and bad allergic reactions and worried about the vaccine. Her stepdad had just gotten his first dose of the vaccine.

“And a lot of people don’t know if they want it or not but believe me you’ll regret it if something happens and please encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated,” said “And again.”

Now the community is doing everything they can to help.

One of Larazo’s teachers is spearheading a fundraising campaign to help them get back to Miami where they have more family for support.

“It just broke my heart it really broke my heart so I just kept asking what can I do,” said Elise Peeples, 7th Grade English Teacher Burke County Middle.

“Just love your parents and appreciate every second that you’re with them because I feel so lost without mine,” said Penalba.

The middle school is accepting donations and you can make those checks out to Burke County Middle School, with ‘LM’ in the memo line. To donate to their family, visit their GoFundMe page.

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