Update: How you can help struggling family
Deborah Walker, center, shares a home with her son, David, 16, and mother, Katherine Woodruff, 82.
October 6th, 2011
03:34 PM ET

Update: How you can help struggling family

Editor's note: After this item first appeared in late August, many readers offered to assist the Walker family in various ways. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of San Diego is now connecting the family with sources of assistance. If you would like to contribute, please send checks, gift cards (Albertsons, Target, Walmart) or goods to: Case Management Services, Catholic Charities of San Diego, 349 Cedar St. Room 101, San Diego, CA 92101; include Deborah Walker's name in a note or on the check's memo line. Secure online donations also may be made through the Catholic Charities website. Clothing donations: David wears 38/34 pants, XL shirts and size 13 shoes.

[Original post, published August 24, 2011] Widowed mother Deborah Anne Walker was struggling financially when the economy turned sour in the fall of 2008. She is disabled and couldn't afford school clothes for her 13-year-old son, so she ended up having him wear her jeans, and other children teased him.

"You just have to keep thinking, 'OK, what is the one thing we have left that we can live without the most?' " she told CNN in September 2008. " ... I don't understand why, every time there is a crisis, it's the poor, disabled, children and seniors who end up having to pay for it."

Some kindhearted CNN.com users and members of her church came through with help for the family that fall, but the underlying economic conditions didn't improve, and Walker's situation may be even more dire now than it was then.

When CNN asked Walker, 50, of Vista, California, for an update, here's what she wrote:

There have been a number of changes since last we spoke. My elderly mother (Katherine Woodruff, 82) is living with us now. She had a fall, and a mild heart attack, and her doctor said she couldn't live upstairs anymore. So, I brought her home with me.

David has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, which is a form of autism. He is in a day treatment facility [Discovery Hills and Valley], where they get their academic (lessons) and therapy. This change has helped him very much.

[The San Diego County school district operates Discovery Hills and Valley, where special-needs students attend classes and receive medical care and prescriptions at no cost to the family. A bus provides door-to-door service.]

We still struggle to make it through each month. We have had a couple rent increases and no cost-of-living increase. It's been hard.

I have to take my mother to all of her appointments, bathe her, feed her, administer her meds, and the list goes on. ... I had to quit my part-time job [as a home health aide] because I needed to be home more because of my mother and my son's conditions. David has grown A LOT, and doesn't have many clothes that fit him.

[David, now 16, is nearly 6 feet tall and 245 pounds, Walker said in an interview.]

I'm doing much better emotionally. I have a couple of excellent doctors, and am not as depressed as I was.

It's still a BIG struggle financially. Right now, we can't drive the car because the tags are expired, and I can't afford the registration fees. We barely make it through the month without running out of groceries. We have had to cut out anything we didn't HAVE to have, like the cell phones. I don't know how I'm going to find the money to get the tags renewed, and I am the only transportation for the three of us. Between my medical problems and David's and my mother's, we have quite a few doctor appointments every month, and no way to get there!

[Her mother put off an eye appointment this month, hoping to reschedule when the family has transportation again, Walker said. Walker uses an old baby stroller to carry groceries home from a store in her neighborhood. "People look at me funny, walking down the street with an empty stroller, but you gotta do what you gotta do," she said.]

I think it's hardest on David. He's a teenager, and needs things, like clothes that fit, to keep from getting teased at school. He's depressed lately because we can never go out to Jack in the Box, or the movies, or even just to 7-11 for a Slurpee, because there just isn't any money.

[The family subsists on Walker's Supplemental Security Income (disability) check and Woodruff's Social Security.]

So ... I am kept very busy taking care of David and my mother. I still have faith in God, and hope for things to improve, even if only slightly. Somehow, I'm holding this family together.

Thanks for taking an interest. Most of the time, it seems like nobody cares about us. I get down, but I always drag myself back up. Quitters never win, and winners never quit!

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Filed under: California • Economy • Jobs • Most Intriguing People • U.S.
soundoff (981 Responses)
  1. JC-VA

    Thank you Jim Kavanagh, Please keep us post it on how we can help this family!!!!

    August 25, 2011 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
  2. Deanna

    Man, that's heartbreaking. I want to help out somehow.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Kaye

      She is in Facebook. Deborah Anne Walker. Hope this helps

      August 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. bob searcy

    this story isnt unique at all. i wouldnt have to go 10 feet to find someone worse off. im not taking away from their struggle but this is bleeding heart bs. worse off are people being forced to work while on hellish chemo treatments. the right wing in this country are callous and the opposite of god like..

    August 25, 2011 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
    • gg

      Really? Just because someone is fiscally conservative doesn't make us mean spirited vultures looking to feed off the carcases of the poor. I think most conservatives agree that there should be a social safety net – just don't make a hammock out of it. For those who are not capable of caring for themselves I agree there should be a system in place to help them out with their essential needs. That said the one thing we can't afford to do any longer is to continue to support those who have turned it into a lifestyle. I know people who genuinely need services and I know people who play the system. We need to fix the system so only those who genuinely need the help get it.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Julia

      Sad, but true. This story, with different variations- a little better or worse, plays out in large numbers in this wealthy country. This is the group of individuals the Right are expecting to do with even Less, while demanding wealthy corporate CEO's pay a lower % of their income in taxes than any of their lowly employees pay. How the "leaders" of this group ever managed to convince a large group of people to accept sacrificing themselves to their rich bosses is really confusing. Then give this philosophy a religious slant to boot! Now, that IS clever! I cannot find that part in my Bible at all. Maybe they have a newer version.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. Sagebrush Shorty

    Too bad so many of our resources are directed towards illegal immigrants and other political targets.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
  5. HardWorkerbutNoJob

    Do You Even Lift.

    Takes one to know one.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  6. jyoung

    It is not our place to judge, there are many many many people hurting in this country of ours trying to make ends meet, I help others when I can, and I help my family as they are all struggling too. My heart sinks when I read the mean spirited comments that I see here and in other news stories. I pray daily that the human race wakes up and understands that we are all in this together and we should help each other to the best of our abilities.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Laney

      I really don't know why I read the mean comments at all. People like the ones here being so mean spirited will be crying like babies when they find themselves in some of our shoes. Keep the sugar teats handy...these evil mouthed whiney babies will be needing them before it's over!

      August 25, 2011 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
  7. John

    The only thing missing is some direction as to how we can help. Can you post (or e-mail me) an address to which we can mail donations.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
  8. aNN

    I blame inbreeding, How can all of them be disabled?

    August 25, 2011 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Laney

      Please...do us all a huge favor and crawl back into your uneducated, worthless hole you crawled out of. I am sure that you will get your rocks off by me responding to your idiocy but, get a grip...it's through your ignorance and lack of social skills that make you an idiot. Please tell me where I can send you directions so you can catch the next overcrowded bus out of our solar system.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  9. aNN

    quick someone donate cigarettes and beer. STAT

    August 25, 2011 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
  10. chana

    I want to atleast donate clothes to this young man... its sad that ppl have to suffer but yet illegal immigrants get health care and all, its bull s***!!! but then again we have issues like this all over the world, the rich ppl / government ppl that take money from tax payers that goes into thier pockets insted should donate and help out on more in the world so so sad.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  11. Zalek

    Why Americans are so pessimistic? Only 15% Americans live on food stamps, only 50 millions Americans live without health insurance, but our 1% elite is booming. We need reduce spending on social issues and reduce taxes for our rich elite!


    August 25, 2011 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  12. HardWorkerbutNoJob

    I can understand that it is "rough" for these folks as well as many others who live in "The Land of Promise"

    I, myself have been tested out as disabled because of a prior work injury. But guess what I'm still working. In pain frequently but I have to keep going. My mother who is 82 stays with me also and I care for her as well as my last two children ages 11 and 17. I am 51. My children have tested out at varying levels of ADD but the ones that are old enough work too. We try not to PAY ATTENTION TO DIAGNOSIS AS MUCH AS JUST THE CLIMB AND SUCCESS OF WORKING FOR OUR GOALS.

    Money is very tight and we frequently find ourselves without enough for food or utilities or rent. But we work it out by budget, or borrowing. Anyway it's rough for many in the country and it's going to get a whole lot worse.before it gets better.;

    August 25, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
  13. angel

    i am sorry about all happening-unfortunately this is the world today! u r not alone. I myself cannot believe the situation we are in-with the economy, and just all happening around us. Not sure if they have dollar general stores or dollar tree stores where you live, but i even buy quite a few things at these stores. everything is one dollar! they have food, pet supplies, house supplies, health and beauty supplies, alot of things we need-they are not best quality for sure BUT it would help a bit–also agree with thrift stores-we have a savers, goodwill, etc. also churches have clothes donations, food donations, they help out alot!!!!! dont be too proud to ask for help from these places! thats why they ask for clothes, food, and anything else people might. school supplies for kids-and not to mention loving you no matter what! All we can do is best we can-dont worry about what other people think-its irrelevant–just keep doing what you can-take advantage of suggestions i mentioned above, take one day at a time-one step at a time! good luck to you!

    August 25, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  14. K Shapiro

    I was once in this position. Where can we send a donation to help this family?

    August 25, 2011 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  15. Swimmer

    Maybe David could start working to help out the family, such as mowing lawns or helping people move. He looks like he needs some exercise so why not combine activities? He's 16 years old. I was washing dishes in restaurants at age 14 and throwing newspapers starting age 11. It's a bad lesson for him to equate family income with government and private donations. Stop enabling and making excuses for him.

    August 25, 2011 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
    • rizzo

      Usually I'm big on charity, but I think you're right about this. I was doing tech support for an ISP starting as soon as I turned 16. Surely this kid has some kind of marketable skill.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Laney

      HE IS AUTISTIC! What part of that do you not understand? Why is this point lost over and over and over again? Autism...especially Aspergers, prevents the sufferer from interacting with people on a level that allows them to integrate properly into everyday society. It's not negotiable or treatable! The best they can do is give meds that keep them calm and manageable. Some are afflicted with more severe manifestations than others but all manifestations make them virtually unemployable without significant oversight and management from caregivers, if employable at all!

      August 25, 2011 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Dee127

      I have a daughter with Asperger's Syndrome. We are fortunate because she is so high functioning, but many individuals with AS are not so lucky. Without knowing David I could never assume he could easily go out and secure work. Socialization issues are only a part of the problem. He may have adverse reactions to loud noises, he may have trouble with organizational skills or maintaining focus. People need to become more informed about Asperger's Syndrome. It is not a one size fits all diagnosis so what you see in one TV show is not indicative of all individuals who have it.

      August 25, 2011 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
    • txguy

      Did you even read the story before you rushed to reply?

      August 25, 2011 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
    • dark

      Aspergers is a highly functional form of autism. If you look it up, it's thought that Albert Einstein and other other notable people had it.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Swimmer

      Let's don't give up on David and assign him to a life of sitting on meds and playing video games. An expectation to work and contribute can make a HUGE difference. I have a brother who is very mentally challenged. Our family supported him for years and he was always unhappy and unhealthy. Five years ago he started helping a plumber and slowly became a good and reliable worker. WHAT A DIFFERENCE! He's now much happier, his days are filled with interactions, physical and mental activities. David, don't let the Laneys of this world guide you...work of any kind is a critical part of your health and happiness.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Laney

      Mentally challenged is NOT equivalent of autistic! Different animal. Please...do research. Donate to the autism society in your area. Aspies are more often than not very intelligent (high functioning) but unable to socialize. There are many who, indeed, believe that Albert Einstein was Aspie. Doesn't mean Einstein could hold a job at McDonald's though. The man couldn't even dress himself.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • RRH

      Laney- I am a mother of a child with Aspergers. Not all children with Autism are how you described it. Medication is not the answer for most children with Aspergers. Please research what you say before you spread ignorance. It is called Autism SPECTRUM Disorder for a reason.....each children has a different level of ability and Aspergers children are most often high functioning.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Swimmer

      To David Walker: You have a choice in America. You can follow Laney and sit around, be depressed and fart all day. Or you can follow countless others in this country living in your situation who have assessed their own skills and made a choice to be active and contribute to your family and community. I don't know what exactly you can do, David, but know that work is a very critical component to mental and physical health. Some ideas: take care of Grandma, clean the church pews, wash cars, build bird houses, set up WiFi for people, walk dogs, window washer, buy and sell on eBay, WHATEVER matches your skills with your market. Good luck my man!

      August 25, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Pagan Goddess Priest

      I don't agree with that. While in school your full focus should be on school. Can't get a job after 18 without an education. Sure if he chooses to take on the role of Student and Parent thats his decision. But no child under the age of 18 should have to work if they don't want to. Now, if they want a car and their own stuff getting a job would be beneifcial. I never had a job while I attended school. I was raised to focus on education. An education is all anyone really has now days. And you get picked on and teased and tell me you won't gain weight. Kids who get teased and made fun of seclude them self from society and hide away. Causing them to become Anti-Social, Depressed, Eating to fill that gap. You have no understanding of the hard life.

      August 25, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Laney

      RRH...you haven't thoroughly read all of my comments on the subject have you? No, medication is not the answer although most require some medication to keep them from reacting inappropriately to particular social stimuli. I have a friend who is Aspie and a friend who works at a high level in the Austism Society. Treating an Aspie is complex and has to be tailored to each individual. I HAVE done my research and I KNOW the situation first hand.

      However, blanket statements made about this kid without evening knowing his individual Aspie status is reckless and hurtful. This kid needs more help than his mom can pay for and not all social service programs will do what will likely help this kid. All I want to see is an end to the mean mouthed, nay sayers who simply want to kick the breath out of someone for fun. This forum, unfortunately, is not big enough to go into enough detail about Aspergers which is why I am asking people to research. Autism has grown at a phenomenal rate in this country...why? It's a note worthy phenomenon that really needs to get some social support and that is why I am begging...do some research! Donate! Help!

      August 25, 2011 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
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