Family turns heartbreaking loss into life-changing help for Chicago families

A family from Texas drove to Chicago to turn their heartbreaking loss into life-changing help for others.

When Dylan Cruz Pantoja was born, his parents were told he had a week to live.  

"If he was going to live however long God intended him to live, we wanted to give him quality of life, and wanted him to enjoy life as a child can," said Dylan's mother, Itza Pantoja.

Dylan’s mom says he lived 16 years full of play, adventure, and joy, with the help of expensive medical equipment that a malpractice lawsuit helped them purchase. 

"It wasn't about him living longer, it was about him just living," said Pantoja.

Now, Dylan’s family is donating a truck load of supplies and equipment, that they drove from Texas to Chicago, to help possibly hundreds of families here, including that of 11-year-old Felipe Aguilar who is quadriplegic.

"It is much more than just something to help Felipe's life be a little easier, it is a show of kindness and solidarity from a family mourning the loss of their own little one," said Felipe's mother, Karina Aguilar.

All of the supplies ended up in Chicago because the lawyer who helped Dylan’s family, practices law here.

Then came an assist from the Clifford Law Offices, Justice Jesse Reyes and the non-profit ASI, which helps those with disabilities.


"As soon as we got the call about the equipment, we already had families ready to take it before they arrived, before they came from Texas," said Marta Cerda, the ASI executive director.

She says insurance and government assistance doesn’t cover a lot of supplies and equipment families need.

The donated equipment, plus medical supplies, is estimated to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

A special chair used to help Dylan stand cost the Pantoja family $47,000.

This was an emotional first meeting between Dylan’s family and Felipe’s family, as they handed over life-changing gifts on what would have been Dylan’s 18th birthday.

Felipe's mother and Dylan's mother hugged and agreed that Dylan was smiling down on them.