SAN ANTONIO – As a child, Gloria Benavidez Rodriguez’s mother would use “Ma,” as in grandma, and her grandmother’s first name, “Hila,” when addressing Rodriguez’s great-grandmother.
Little did Rodriguez know then, it would be the name of her nonprofit, Ma Hila’s Heart Project.
"When I was hurt, she'd cut red construction paper into a heart," Rodriguez said her mother would tell her.
“She told me to put it wherever it hurts to ease the pain,” Rodriguez said.
In a very real sense, Rodriguez said that's what her nonprofit is doing for families with children battling cancer.
“It is an immense need here in San Antonio," said Rodriguez, who works with pediatric oncologists at University Hospital.
Rodriguez said there is a need for more donors who can help cover whatever costs families may have.
“Paying their mortgage, to the rent, to car payments and water payments,” Rodriguez said. “All the way through, to furniture for the family living room set to bicycles for the entire family.”
Rodriguez said if needed, Ma Hila’s Heart Project pays for medicines and groceries.
She said by families picking up those necessities, they can risk exposing their medically vulnerable children to COVID-19 when they return.
By granting their "heart wishes," Rodriguez said, "We hope that it creates some sense of hope, love and joy in their lives for the foreseeable future."
Rodriguez established the nonprofit as a legacy for her mother, Irma Benavidez, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2010.
“Our wish is that someday we would not be needed because there would be no kids with cancer," she said.
Until then, Rodriguez said Ma Hila’s Heart Project will be there for them and their families.