Jersey City mayor raises money for children orphaned by Virginia tornado

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

July 30, 2014

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – The Balatbat children – ages 13, 12, and 7 – have been orphaned too soon.

Both their parents, Lord Balatbat and Lolibeth Ortega, both 38, were killed when a tornado blew down a tree over their tent in Cherrystone Campground in Virginia last week.

The 13-year-old son Lheandrew suffered serious injuries and remains in a coma in a Virginia Hospital.

The two girls also suffered injuries but have been discharged from the hospital.

The Jersey City community is here to help. Mayor Steven Fulop held a fundraiser for the benefit of the orphaned children of the tornado victims on Tuesday night.

“It was a tragic situation last week,” Fulop said, “The family is a Filipino family. We happen to have one of the largest Filipino communities in the State of New Jersey, and the Filipino community here is a very close community.”

The Mayor says half of the proceeds raised on Tuesday night at the Led Zeppelin Restaurant and Biergarten in Jersey City will be given to the Balatbat children through their legal guardian.

“There’s a lot of different components that are important here, said the Mayor. “At the end of the day if we end up raising 20, 30, 40,000 dollars it’s still gonna be a drop in the bucket but it’s still helpful in some way.”

Community leader Helen Castillo said, “The immediate need of the family is really financial help for the burial of the parents and of course medical expenses of the children.”

Castillo said that Ortega’s sister has been assigned as legal guardian to the kids.

“This is very devastating because it’s two parents – ok lang sana kung isa man lang natira but it’s two parents and they are like three very, very young children,” said Castillo.

Kababayans were there to help.

Jersey City resident Jose Paloma said, “I felt good when George called me – come over here Joe, this is for the kids. My heart just broke down. The Mayor really cares about the Filipino community.”

Viewing for the Filipino couple will be held at the Greenville Memorial Home in Jersey City on Thursday and Friday. Another viewing and funeral service will be held at Our Lady of Mercy Church on Saturday followed by the burial at Holy Name Cemetery on West Side Ave in Jersey City.

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com.

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