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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Asking For An Arm And A Leg

by Sam Nelson (bio)

If any of you have been around a newly returned missionary, you’ll notice two things.

1) They won’t stop talking about their mission.
2) They will bring up the same few people over and over.

Luciano was that for me. I baptized Luciano Concha when he was a young teenager in my first area. Despite few friends in the church and being the only member of his family, he attended church every Sunday. He loved it, he had a difficult life and found comfort and hope in the gospel. The gospel was the perfect outlet for his highly intelligent and curious self; after only one year Luciano had read the entire Book of Mormon twice, the New Testament once, and was halfway through the D&C. When I returned to visit him later on my mission, I realized I could talk to him about Book of Mormon stories and church doctrine as if he were an adult.

You meet thousands of people on the mission, and between those thousands of people there are a few that are simply extraordinary. A few people you feel like, alone, would have made your entire mission worth it. You know that in the future, they will be leaders in the church, and their children will have the opportunity to grow up in a gospel-centered home. It’s a rush just thinking about the potential impact on future generations. There was no one more like that for me than Luciano Concha.

Three months ago I received a barrage of emails and Facebook messages with the tragic news that Luciano was involved in a train accident. Although he miraculously survived, he had the misfortune of losing his entire right arm and leg.

As fate would have it, Luciano caught the attention of filmmaker Rick Stevenson when he was in Chile filming me for the Two Brothers film years earlier. His unique optimistic personality, deep spirituality, and maturity for his age led Rick to give him a couple 5000 Days interviews.

Rick was the only person in the U.S. that knew Luciano like I did and he was the first person I called after I got the news. We both agreed that something had to be done for Luciano. At the time, Rick was working on the Listen series for BYUtv and said that he had enough footage of Luciano to do a piece on him if we combined it with my little brother. We talked about it as a family and agreed that allowing Joseph to be part of the project was the right thing to do in the given situation.

Miraculously, the planets aligned for Luciano. His piece was shown on BYUtv after the Sunday morning session of general conference. And they were allowed to make a reference to a website we put together (Help Luciano) where people can donate money toward (otherwise unaffordable) prosthetics for him. In only a week we raised over $26,000, enough for him to get through all of his young adult years with quality prosthetics. One of the amazing things about this initial push was that more than 90% of the donations were for $50 or less. As of right now, 365 different people have contributed to the cause.

It’s been amazing to see the overwhelming support we’ve received. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw donations come in Monday night in amounts like $147.23. It reminded me of maybe the most impactful family home evening I ever had.. After September 11th, my father gave us a lesson about charity and invited us to contribute together. We all thought about what we were given and made contributions to a charity supporting families impacted by the tragedy.

Separately, I just now received a message from a young men's/young women’s group in Washington D.C. that is doing a carwash, and others in positions to help have offered their services or positions in their community to do fundraisers. I’m starting to realize that the opportunity this gives us to help Luciano is as great of an opportunity for the people wanting to make a difference as it is for him.

If you’d like to join the team of more than 365 other people who have decided that Luciano’s life is worth a personal sacrifice for, I invite you to contribute in any way you can. There are a lot of ways to help. Here’s how you can help.

1. Donate here.
2. Kevin Klar recently made a four-and-a-half minute video about Luciano. MMM readers are the first to see it, so help it go viral by sharing it on Facebook!
3. Like the Change Luciano’s Life Facebook page
4. Follow on Twitter.
5. Write Luciano a message.

Facebook and Twitter allow causes like this to move quickly and effectively through the web with very little effort. Our initial push into social media has the potential to reach more people than the original film did, bringing us to more than half of our goal. If the message is spread successfully, it could easily elevate us to our goal of $50,000, giving Luciano an education and quality prosthetics until he is 35 years old.

Our entire first $26,000 was made up of small donors that decided that they were going to be one of the people that made this dream a reality for Luciano. Whether you can afford to contribute thousands, hundreds, $50 or $10, please do so. Each donation makes a difference, with the hundreds of people who have contributed $50 or less already changing Luciano’s young adult years from bed-rest to a more normal, functional life. I invite you to be part of the team!

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