SAN MARCOS, CA - Three children will be able to properly bury their mother thanks to a few balloons and caring viewers who stepped in to help.
Renee Finney, 42, died in her Moreno Valley home near Riverside Tuesday. She leaves behind three children.
Finney's family members tell Scripps station 10News that she had been battling cancer for more than a year and was discovered by one of her daughters who came to check up on her. They believe she had been dead for more than a day inside her home.
"My sister called and said, 'Momma, she's cold and she's not breathing and she won't wake up,'" said Finney's oldest daughter, 25-year-old Karries. "I had to run by my sister's side and I saw my mom laying there."
Finney's family told 10News they were unable to pay for funeral arrangements, which are costing them up to $10,000. The family spent Mother's Day weekend holding bake sales, car washes and distributing donation boxes. So far, they have raised $2,000.
Then on Mother's Day, Finney's best friend encouraged the children to write letters to their mother. The family spent the afternoon writing at least 10 letters, tied them to balloons and released them into the sky.
"At first I thought they were really dumb, like she's not going to get them," explained Finney's 18-year-old daughter, Davion. "But if we didn't put the balloons outside at 8:30 last night, we would still be here worrying about how to save up money to bury my mom the right way."
On Monday morning, Yvette Melton found the balloons on her doorstep in Murrieta. She was so touched by the letters that she started to do some research online using the names written in the letters. She found Finney's obituary online and called the funeral home, which confirmed the family was in need of money for a proper burial.
Melton then told her boss, Jerry Halamuda of Fallbrook-based Color Spot Nurseries, about her discovery.
"The one part of the letter that really grabbed us was, 'we know you are up in heaven but we don't have any money to bury you' and so our thing was ... let's make this happen," he said.
Within hours, employees at his company chipped in to raise $2,000. He says he is working to raise more.
"I want to say thank you, I appreciate you, you are a godsend," explained Karries. "My mom had no life insurance and you want to bury your mother the right way, you want to glorify your mother … it means everything to my family."
If you'd like to help the family with burial costs, contact Yvette Melton at firstname.lastname@example.org.