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Murray community rallies around immigrant family after father dies from rare disease

Posted at 6:15 AM, Dec 07, 2022

MURRAY, Utah — The Murray community is rallying around a family from Nigeria who immigrated to Utah and is now dealing with a devastating tragedy.

Winston Van Winson has served as the football coach for 9-year-old Isaac over the last two years.

"During that two years, he’s [been] a tremendous athlete," Van Winson explained, "He plays up with the 10 and 11-year-olds."

He said Isaac's family was living paycheck to paycheck as they tried to set down roots in a new country when the father of the family died unexpectedly.

Isaac's father contracted Legionnaire's disease, which is a rare bacterial pneumonia, Van Winson explained. He was also diagnosed with COVID-19 shortly before his death.

As the family copes with a devastating loss, the Murray community decided they wanted to help in any way possible.

"They needed help," Van Winson said. "That was really the end of it, so we decided to put together something. I decided to put together a Gofundme. We put it out on social media, we put it out via email to the Murray Spartan team and the Hot Shots competition basketball team and it's done really well."

Community members responded to the fundraiser quickly, raising nearly $8,000 in two days.

Most of the money raised will go towards funeral costs so the father can be laid to rest in his home country.

"A lot of that is to cover funeral costs," Van Winson said. "It's pretty expensive and the husband needs to be buried in Nigeria as they're immigrants from Nigeria it's part of their culture."

Some of the money raised will also help the family with other life necessities, like food.

The community also gathered Tuesday night to show support for the family at a candlelight vigil.

"We probably had about 50 people," Van Winson said. "The family was incredibly grateful. Isaac totally felt loved. His mother...speaks English, but it’s her second language. Normally doesn’t talk but at the end of it, she talked to us all and said how grateful she was for all the support she received from all of us, whether it was helping them get around town or financially."

Van Winson said he understands it's the holidays and there are many causes to donate to, but he pleaded that every penny counts for this family as they deal with a tragic loss.

"It is the holidays and there are lots of charities to give to and the outpouring from the community and this family and this kid has really been incredible," he said. "We’re all very appreciative for everybody stepping up and donating to help raise money for this family. I mean they need help and you know they have a father to bury and really just need the help right now."