Blind Pro-life Activists Keep Home after Nearly $100K Donated

By Dustin Siggins Published on June 15, 2015

Two months ago, pro-life activists Sara and John Dina feared medical debts would leave them relying on friends for a home. Four weeks later, thanks to 98,450 in donations from as far away as Japan, their house of 17 years is theirs again.

Sara and John, who are both blind, have faced enormous medical bills for nearly two decades as John’s health has deteriorated. A former police officer in New York City, John was hit by a delivery truck in 1990 as he waited to pick up a friend after his shift. Health complications since the late 1990s have included multiple heart attacks and a stroke.

While his health hasn’t stopped them from leading 40 Days for Life since 2012, or being involved with the pro-life ministry since 2009, it has led to $100,000 in medical bills.

John “has quite a list of severe medical issues that cause him to spend quite a bit of time every year at a hospital,” says Sara. She told The Stream that when she and her husband moved into their home in 1998, “we had a lot more income, [and] did not realize that the medical issues were going to become as severe as they are.”

In March 1999 Sara’s husband had a heart attack and stroke and was left with cognitive and physical impairments because of complications.

Sara’s children also experienced health challenges. In 2007, her youngest daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Then in 2011, another daughter developed a number of serious medical issues.

“It just really blew the medical issues to a much more severe level than they had been. We’ve just been buried by medical bills that we didn’t anticipate when we bought the home.”

The Washington Post reports that the couple’s monthly income totals $4,500, which comes from Sara’s disability check and John’s pension from 22 years on the police force. But it just wasn’t enough to offset $100,000 in medical debt and pay the mortgage.

Sara told The Stream that when friends approached her about creating a YouCaring.com page to raise funds, she “really thought that we’d be blessed and fortunate if we raised $15,000.” Her friends, however, asked for $80,000 on the page.

The donations have reached nearly $99,000, with almost $90,000 raised in the nine-day period of the initial fundraiser. The YouCaring.com effort has gathered support from all corners.

The Stream was initially made aware of the Dina family’s circumstances through an Alexandria, Virginia-based pro-life activist, and later through an Alexandria Catholic parish volunteer email list.

“I met Sara last fall when I started volunteering with Alexandria 40 Days For Life,” Maggen Elizabeth Stone told The Stream. “My first impression of Sara was one of kindness and compassion.  She clearly has a heart for helping others. I have seen other people give up in the face of challenges, but Sara moves forward to help those in need a clear example of which is her steadfast leadership of Alexandria’s 40 Days for Life campaign.”

“Since fall, my original impression has only been confirmed,” said Stone, who said that “it has been amazing to watch” as donations have poured in to help the Dinas.

“With one day left before foreclosure, the Dinas had more than $20K to raise. I was in awe to see the counter continue to rise to and then surpass their goal, with funds still coming in.  It’s a beautiful gesture of care for a woman and a family who give so much to others.”

Sara says her involvement in 40 Days for Life came from her parish involvement, which radically changed her prior ignorance on the issue. Raised in a religious family, “it never would have crossed our radar that anybody could kill a human baby, and also that anybody could say that what was growing inside the mother’s womb wasn’t a baby,” she says.

But “when my husband and I moved to Northern Virginia in 1994, we met some people through our church, and we went to some Bible studies at their house. One night, someone said something about going to the clinic to pray on Saturday.”

Confused, Sara asked what the person meant. “He explained that they were going to pray outside the abortion clinic. And that was really the first time that we had come face-to-face with that issue. We got involved because, to me, it was just like a punch in the gut.”

Sara, whose sight problems came from an infection in infancy called Stevens-Johnson syndrome and who has hearing problems as well, said because of how she was raised “it was just natural that we’d get involved, and pray, and do what we could.”

Over the years, Sara and her family took advantage of more and more opportunities to get involved. Sara first heard about 40 Days for Life in 2009 and in 2010 she joined and became the events coordinator.

Several campaigns later, the leader of the 40 Days for Life campaign Sara was involved in — which centers on Alexandria’s Whiting Street abortion clinic — decided to move on to other endeavors. At that point, Sara took over as leader.

“We’ve done it for the past four years. I really believe in 40 Days for Life; I’ve seen amazing things happen. We do face the struggle that I think pretty much all pro-life projects face: We have a very small, core group of very dedicated people.”

Sara says that the Whiting Street clinic may be the only clinic in America located inside of an apartment building. When people first saw pro-life activists praying outside of the clinic, they were unaware that the clinic was on the property.

“Abortion is horrible enough,” Sara said. “I can’t imagine having to live in a building where that’s done. The really sad thing is, most of these residents in this building, until we showed up, had no idea that this was going on this building.”

“But over the last few years, we’ve really been able to raise awareness that ‘yes, this is going on in the building where you live.’ And the residents are not happy.”

Donations to help John and Sara keep their home didn’t just come from pro-life activists. Lacrosse teammates of Sara and John’s 18-year old daughter Catherine also pitched in. A bake sale brought in almost $1,300, according to the Postand “earlier this season, the group decided to forgo its Boathouse jackets — a spirit wear staple for years — instead donating the more than $2,000 in proceeds to the Dinas. …”

While some might say this challenge — in addition to the medical issues facing Sara, John, and two of their four daughters — is too much to handle, Sara says the response by so many is just more evidence of God’s grace.

“The first day they went live with the campaign, I really thought that we’d be blessed and fortunate if we raised $15,000,” Sara continued. “The lesson I’ve learned from this is, you don’t ever underestimate God. The Internet was a real blessing. [People] would share it on Facebook, and Twitter, and it just went all over. We got a donation from a Knight of Columbus in Japan. It’s been amazing.”

While John and Sara had considered moving, a look at area rental prices caused them to reconsider because their mortgage is smaller than rent would be. “And for much less room!” says Sara.

Sara told The Stream that her family is now able to stay in their home until all of the children graduate high school and that numerous options exist.

When asked how she could be so happy despite her life’s difficulties, Sara said, “It is all God.”

Foreclosure is no longer an issue thanks to donations. “I have seen, over and over throughout my life, how God has met everything. He’s never let me down. I let him down all the time, but He’s never let me down.”

“And every time my back has been against the wall, I just think, ‘Oh, Lord, there is just no way this is going to work.’ He just comes through!”

Stone says watching people help the Dinas has been inspirational. “I wish more people lived daily with the good will to their fellow man that was shown to the Dina’s over the last few days,” she says. “What an amazing place the world would be if that happened.”

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