This past 4th of July, the ODW community was struck by a tragic loss when Vanessa Morales died in a car crash in Alabama just one week before her 25th birthday. Vanessa, along with a friend and her younger sister, were on their way to Florida to celebrate her upcoming birthday. We are grieving and praying for the friends and family of Vanessa as they continue to process this loss.

Vanessa and her family lives in Texas. She is a graduate of the University of Houston where she received her degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Global Business. She was working as a Technical Director at Telemundo in Houston. She is survived by her parents, a twin sister, and a younger sister and brother.

Vanessa became part of the ODW movement just two weeks ago when she pledged her 25th birthday – with a goal of raising $500 to build classrooms in Guatemala through our partner project with Long Way Home. On her social media channels, she shared her goal:

“My birthday is coming up and this year I want to celebrate it differently. Please join me in my Birthday for a Cause Campaign. I'm asking you to donate to my campaign instead of gifts for my birthday.” 

I’ve had the opportunity of talking with her family in the wake of this tragedy. The conversations have been emotional and raw…but it has also been an honor to learn more about Vanessa’s life. While I’ve never personally met her, it’s clear that Vanessa was indeed a very special person. In learning of her story from her family, best friends, and the hundreds of comments that have accompanied donations on her birthday page, she had a profound and positive impact on so many she encountered.

Vanessa lived a life of passion, kindness, and generosity and while she will be deeply missed, we hope to join her family, friends, and community to continue to inspire people through Vanessa’s legacy.

Vanessa’s Legacy

Vanessa’s goal for her birthday campaign was $500 as part of our larger partnership to come alongside children and to build classrooms in Guatemala with Long Way Home. This project was actually funded right as Vanessa launched her birthday for a cause, so we knew whatever she raised would expand the project.

Vanessa met her initial goal of $500 and as news began to spread of her tragic passing, donations have flooded in. As of writing this, Vanessa’s campaign has surpassed $10,000 which increases the grant for Long Way Home from $31,039 to over $41,000. This will have a huge impact for the children and families in Guatemala. First I want to reaffirm our commitment that 100% of donations (minus credit card fees) go directly to projects to empower those living in extreme poverty. I also want to briefly give you a glimpse of what this extra $10,000 will do.

Originally, our grant was going to help build three classrooms for the children; this not only provides them with access to quality education, but it will do this through environmentally sustainable materials and methods, while also employing local workers to help stimulate their community’s economy. With the extra funds from Vanessa’s campaign, our partner will be able to construct a fourth classroom that will expand the school to another 20 children. This classroom will be specifically dedicated in honor of Vanessa’s extraordinary life.

In addition, all funds raised over $10,000 will go towards a special fund called The Vanessa Morales Fund that will be used to help empower children living in extreme poverty with education – something that mattered to her. This special fund will enable her family and friends to designate any future campaigns specifically to the VMF so that we may continue to honor her – and her commitment to philanthropy and generosity.

Yessenia (Vanessa’s twin sister) shared these words in our conversation:

“On behalf of our entire family, we want to thank everyone for their warm thoughts and prayers. They all mean so much to us. We are also very honored to be in partnership with One Day’s Wages and are grateful for their decision to start the Vanessa Morales Fund. This was something Vanessa always wanted and while she’s no longer with us, we hope that this will bless many children around the world. If people have been touched and inspired by Vanessa’s life in some way, we encourage you to give to the Vanessa Morales Fund.”

To the Morales family: We are praying for you. We mourn with you and we join you in also celebrating Vanessa’s life and legacy. We are so honored to have you be a part of our community.

On behalf of One Day’s Wages,

Eugene Cho | Founder & Executive Director