Jazmine Lee raises funds for sister’s tombstone

A third-grader’s efforts to raise money for her sister’s tombstone inspired a former teacher and others to help raise funds.
Jazmine Lee and her brother, Nico, were adopted by Sheila and Robert Lee this year. But the older sister that she spent her earlier years with was still a ward of the state and had been diagnosed with a rare version of muscular dystrophy.
“She died on May 4th, Sunday afternoon,” 8-year-old Jazmine said matter-of-factly about her sister, Alexis, who died at age 16.
When her adoptive parents took her and her brother to visit Alexis’ grave in Littlefield, Jazmine noticed something different about her sister’s final resting spot.
“She didn’t have a headstone,” said Jazmine.
Jazmine said it was important to her to have a marker on her sister’s grave, “because she’s my sister.”
Sheila said Jazmine and Alexis enjoyed shopping and other sisterly activities together.
“Jazmine and Alexis had a special bond,” said Sheila.
The sisters had looked out for each other, and Jazmine remembers with a smile feeding Hot Cheetos to Alexis.
“From what Jaz tells us, whe helped take care of her in the home,” said Sheila.
She began saving up her allowance, and after a few months had saved up $36. Ultimately, Jazmine raised $133 on her own.
“She asked if she could ask for donations,” said Sheila. Because Robert has been out of work battling a brain tumor, the couple could not afford to help her more. They currently have five foster children, three adopted children and one biological child living at home.
Jazmine’s second-grade teacher, who now has Nico in her class, heard about the third-grader’s efforts and immediately got involved.
Teresa Valdez said the story gave her goosebumps. Jazmine had shown her classroom pictures of her sister.
“She told the class, this is my sister, and one day she’ll be going to heaven,” said Valdez. Following Alexis’ death, Jazmine kept a picture of her on her desk at school.
Valdez began sharing the story with her co-workers, her dentist’s office and her church group. Before long, she had raised the remaining $500 necessary for a headstone.
Sheila Lee said Jazmine had actually picked out a less expensive headstone, but the cemetery management told them they had a minimum requirement for sizes, so they had to get a larger stone to meet that requirement.
On Nov. 7, one month before Alexis would have celebrated her 17th birthday, the Lees picked Jazmine up at school and took her to pick out the headstone. They counted her money, and asked her how much longer she thought it would take to raise the remainder. Optimistically, she said it would take about two months.
Then Valdez showed up with a check. It didn’t seem to hit Jazmine until after they left the office, and then she became very emotional, Sheila said.
“She’s nice,” Jazmine said of Valdez.

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