Crete couple wins car to help care for sons with rare neurological disease

HOMEWOOD, Ill. -- Christmas arrived a day early for one family in suburban Homewood this year.

Jeannette Farris and Anthony Kowalski, of Crete, won a 2019 Chevy Sonic from Chevrolet of Homewood Tuesday.

"It's the best Christmas present, the most generous present we could ever, ever ask for," Farris said.

The couple's two young sons, Mathew and Jayden, were diagnosed with ESES epilepsy and a rare neurological disease that attacks their brains.

"It prevents them from further learning skills. Technically if you think about it, they have to re-learn skills constantly, re-walk, pick up things with their hands, Kowalski explained. "They have to continuously learn that every single day."

"Mathew had a full vocabulary, he lost everything within a matter of six months. He lost his ability to walk unassisted," Farris explained. "He lost his ability to eat, he doesn't eat or drink anything by mouth. He lost the ability to speak."

The young parents lost their jobs caring for their sons and their daughter Kaitlyn.

"You burn up all the favors with the boss, like 'hey I might call in sick today, I can't, I have to take them to the doctor,' and they're like 'OK," Kowalsi said. "That happens once every two weeks for three days at a time and you burn people out."

They've also burned out their vehicles traveling back and forth to hospitals across the country. They hope to visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota next, and this holiday gift will help them get there.

"Now we can take them wherever we can find somewhere they might have some ideas, some care, whatever hospital that is, Kowalski said. "It could be the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio next after this, we don't know, but we don't want to give up trying, so if we have a car to get us there, we're definitely going."

The dealership received more than 400 submissions, and staff and employees voted on the finalists.

"You know what, years ago things were not good in the automobile business and you know, I got a second chance and if I got a second chance and I believe in miracles, anybody can," said Steve Phillipos, the dealership's owner. "

Kowalski said he plans to use the car to drive for Uber, so he can bring in money for the family and also be home whenever he needs to be there.

This is the sixth year the dealership has given away a "miracle car" and is living up to the name, making some holiday wishes come true.