Around her neck and wrists are black leather bracelets with silver spikes. Multiple earrings hang from her ears and pierce her lip.
Tori Campos is only 14 and it would be easy to get the wrong impression.
What one cannot see is the girl who has endured more surgeries and medical complications than most people will experience in a lifetime.
She is home schooled because the doctors won’t clear her medically to go to public school.
Her mother, Kimberly, sat beside her at the Beeville Vineyard Thursday morning.
The two would talk softly.
Tori is still like a lot of young girls — shy around strangers.
Her disarming smile was infrequent but shined when she let it.
“She is having a bad day,” Kimberly said. “I think it is the norther coming.”
As they talk, they both now smile. There is a twinkle in their eyes as they speak.
“I am here for her,” her mother said. “She is here for me.”
Both, in fact, have endured more than their fair share of problems.
“She was born three months early,” Kimberly said. “I almost lost her due to me battling cancer.
“She is my walking angel.”
Kimberly is one of many people living in Beeville now who barely makes ends meet because of escalating rent and, especially for her daughter, medical bills.
In mid October, she came in to talk to Lupe Sanchez, executive director at the Vineyard.
She needed help.
“I was really desperate,” she said.
“My daughter has been diagnosed with lupus and she needed glasses.”
Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue.
Her husband works for the city. She works for a home health agency but only makes $400 per month.
“If it wasn’t for Lupe, I wouldn’t know what to do,” she said.
Thanks to a grant, albeit a small one, Lupe was able to pay the eye exam bill for Tori.
Medicaid paid for the glasses.
It’s cases like this that touch Lupe and makes her pray that people will take advantage of Coastal Bend Day of Giving on Tuesday.
For one 24-hour period on that day, Coastal Bend residents have the opportunity to contribute to 30 charities that provide basic services for core needs.
Fifteen local foundations will match contributions that day up to $310,000.
Kimberly admits that when she came to Lupe to ask for help she didn’t know if there was even anything she could do.
“I didn’t know they would help with things like that,” she said. “I just thought I would give it a shot.”
Tori now sports the stylish, thin, silver framed glasses.
Her daughter can now see.
“She was squinting and having headaches,” Kimberly said.
When Tori put on her glasses for the first time, she looked at her mother and said, “Mom, I didn’t realize how bad my vision was.”
Kimberly and Tori come to the Vineyard occasionally for help.
Those in need can shop for food five times a year and for clothes once a month.
When money is available, Lupe is even able to help pay the cost of gas to go to the doctor.
“It is not really the shopping or the food,” Tori said. “It is the money when we need it.
“I don’t need clothes. I don’t eat much.”
“We can barely pay our bills,” Kimberly said. “I don’t even have my rent paid yet.
“Every time I sign a new lease, they up my rent.”
She, like others in the area, have been caught in the whirlwind surrounding the prosperity of the Eagle Ford Shale.
Lupe said that escalating rent in the area has been a problem for many residents.
The Vineyard helps when it can — and when money is available.
“I can’t do anything until she gets an eviction notice,” Lupe said.
Again though, this is why the Day of Giving is so important.
“That money can be used for anything,” Lupe said.
For more information about this year’s nonprofits or funders, visit www.coastalbenddayofgiving.org or call 361-882-9745.
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.