By EMMALEE C. TORISK
It had been a rough year for Mary Alice Sinkovich’s family.
So, for Christmas 2010, the Boardman woman decided to surprise them with a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. It was a place she’d often gone as a child, and a place where the family could get away from their traumas, at least temporarily.
On Jan. 5, 2011, as Mary Alice was in the midst of booking the vacation, she received a phone call from Lally Pipe & Tube in Struthers, where her husband Thomas Sinkovich Sr. worked. There had been an accident, explained the voice on the other end of the line, and her husband had multiple fractures to his leg.
More specifically, his leg had been crushed by 26,000 pounds of steel pipes he’d been securing onto a flat-bed trailer.
That day was just the beginning of a months-long hospital stay, not to mention extensive surgeries and physical therapy that continues today. Mary Alice soon realized she had no choice but to break some bad news to her children.
“The worst day was telling them I had to use the money for Disney,” she said. “The bills needed [to be] paid. The look on their face said they understood, but how do you take something like that away?”
So, the family’s dreams of Disney were put on hold, until a group of family, friends and strangers — or, collectively, the 2013 Adopt a Family group on Facebook — raised almost $5,000 to send them on their long-awaited vacation.
They learned of the donations — which funded a scooter for Thomas to get around the parks, gas cards, a rental van, resort accommodations and more — in mid-November by way of a surprise announcement. The family was at Disney from Feb. 2 to 7.
Besides Thomas and Mary Alice, family members who traveled there were their children — 21-year-old Amanda Getsy, 17-year-old Kelly Pesta, 12-year-old Rebecca Pesta, and 4-year-old Thomas Sinkovich Jr. — and Mary Alice’s mother, Mary Powell of Youngstown.
Just thinking about the trip, along with the generous donations that funded it, makes Mary Alice feel like crying.
“This was above and beyond what we could ever do,” Mary Alice said. “I cried all through Main Street. The moment the music started, it was, ‘Oh my god, we are really here.’”
Kelly and Rebecca said they were skeptical they’d actually — finally — be venturing to Disney, and weren’t convinced until the suitcases began coming out of storage.
Getsy felt the same way. She said she was grateful and touched that people who didn’t even know them wanted to “bring hope into a family that has gone through so much.” It shows that there are still good people in the world, she added.
“My favorite part was us all being together — being able to relax and have fun together,” Getsy recalled. “When we finally pulled into Disney and saw the ‘Welcome to Disney’ sign, it was such an exciting moment. We were just so excited and so happy to be there.”
Chris Lyons, who met the family when Mary Alice began baby-sitting her daughter, brought up the family and their story to Christian Helbling of Pittsburgh — an old friend of hers, who started the Adopt a Family group with his wife, Jill Helbling, about four years ago to sponsor area families during the holiday season.
Christian Helbling acknowledged that raising enough money to send the family to Disney was a slight bit ambitious, but he knew it was something he and the other group members wanted to take on.
Lyons added that they’re simply “a very special family” that was “very deserving of something special,” but Mary Alice explained that she feels just as strongly about the group members — people she calls her “walking angels.”
“It’s just all so surreal,” Mary Alice said. “If it wasn’t for them, I never would’ve been able to give [my family] that trip.”