SEDONA LAKES SUPPORTS ONE OF ITS OWN WITH DONATION, DEDICATION

A “community” is considered to be a place where neighbors help each other, sharing a common bond. Sedona Lakes fully lives up to that ideal, stepping in to help ease a tragic situation for — not a resident — but rather, the community landscaper, Felipe Santoyo, owner of SLI Landscaping, Inc.

Four-year-old Felipe Santoya, Jr., who often joined his father in Sedona Lakes, playing while the elder Felipe worked, was playing kickball with his brother when the unthinkable happened — he was accidentally hit last year by an off-road utility vehicle moving in reverse.

“It was heartbreaking,” said his father, Felipe Santoya, who has handled landscaping in Sedona Lakes for two years. “The Gator is heavy and it hit him on the right side of his face and cheekbone.”

After paramedics stabilized him, young Felipe was taken by helicopter to the hospital where he spent two months recovering from a brain injury that affected his speech and ability to walk.

“His brain was swelling and he had blood on his brain as well,” Santoya said.

Felipe moved to a rehab facility for two more months where he began intensive therapy work to regain his speech and movement on his left side. He finally returned home in December. Buck Driggers, senior vice president for Landeavor, developer of Sedona Lakes, came to visit soon after. That visit was the inspiration for the events to follow.

“After meeting with Felipe and hearing about the struggle and recovery ahead for Felipe, Jr., I thought there must be something we can do to help,” Driggers said. “Everyone in Sedona Lakes knows Felipe — he and his company have done outstanding work for us. How can we pay it forward?”

A plan slowly came together and the surprise was revealed during a regularly scheduled meeting.

“Buck and Sedona Lakes have been very good to us,” Santoya said. “Buck gave me a check for work in Sedona Lakes and then pulled out another check for $5,000 for Felipe.”

The donation, which was used for additional therapy, was not the only way the Sedona Lakes community rallied around the Santoya family. The development also dedicated a playground in young Felipe’s honor.

“The whole community came out this spring to see how Felipe is doing and cheer him on,” Buck said. “We installed a plaque onsite naming it the Felipe Santoya, Jr. Park and Playground.”

Felipe, who turned 5 two days after his accident, is now talking understandably and has taken a couple of steps with the support of others. His therapies are continuing indefinitely.

“He is slowly coming back,” his father said.

For more information on Sedona Lakes, a 535-acre development in Manvel minutes from Highway 288, visit www.sedonalakes.com.