31 July

Juan’s Kayak Ride: Angels In The Sky

by Jon Katz

I’ve never met Juan but I feel like he’s a member of my family, I love him in the strange way we are learning to love people we can’t see and may never meet.

Juan’s mother is one of the Mansion’s most cherished and loving aides, she’s let me help Juan in a number of ways since she is pressed for money right now.

A single mother with two children who works in health care is in for a long struggle these days.

I’ve given her gifts – Juan texted me to thank me for breakfast Wednesday.

I got him safety equipment for skateboarding, a lamp for his bedroom,  headboards for him and his sister, new sneakers and some shirts, some legos and superhero dolls, some games, and I make sure the family is eating.

Juan’s mother never asks for anything, but I can tell now when she is in trouble, and the kids usually prompt her to take some help.

She hates to ask for help or get it, but this is what we do at the Army Of Good, I say. My birthday is coming up next week and she is adamant about getting me a birthday present.

I can’t talk her out of it.

Juan always thanks me himself for the things he gets, there is a connection between us now, and it is growing.

One day I’ll meet him. Maybe I can be a kind of Godfather since I can’t be much of a father or grandfather these days.

After a lot back and forth mother asked me for help getting Juan a birthday present, I got him the best safety equipment for skateboarding, it frightens his mother when he skateboards without a helmet or knee pads.

I brought her a Price Chopper Gift Card the other day and she told me she was taking Juan all the way to Lake Placid for his birthday Thursday.

She barely has money for food so I knew she wouldn’t have any extra cash to celebrate Juan’s birthday.

I was bringing her cash so she could make a Pinata and cake for the Memory Care people, and I slipped an extra $40 in the envelope with a note saying it was for Juan to get something for him at Lake Placid.

Today, she texted me this photo with the message:

“So thank you,” she wrote,” let me show you what Juan did with your money for his birthday.” My heart just did a flip when I saw the smile on Juan’s face.

Then she added “my kids call you Angel. My father passed away and he is our Angel, and so my kids say we have one on the earth and one in the sky.”

Being one of Juan’s angels is perhaps the best job I’ve ever had.

That note really knocked me out.

I am so fortunate to be able to help Juan and his family in this way and during these hard times. His mother has had a rough go of it but she showers the Mansion residents with love and care.

I am grateful to all of you for helping me to do this work, you are my angels of the earth and I thank you for it.

P.S. I got this wrenching note from a friend and writer named Janet Hamilton, she lives in California. She has lost her home and her job due to the pandemic and many people in California and elsewhere are being evicted from their apartments and homes there and all over the country.  She is living in a small trailer until the wildfires destroyed her community. She got a job cooking in a senior center until the pandemic shut it down.

She can’t apply for a place to live for five years because she has no job or savings. 

I recommend reading her powerful account of life in Paradise here- she hasn’t asked for anything – it is a cry from the promised land in America. You can read about her story here on her blog, JanetTravelsHere

If you can, please help support the Price Chopper Gift Card program to help get healthy food to the refugee families of Bishop Maginn High School and the Mansion aides and children like Juan who need food security and support.

You can buy the cards in any amount, please send them to me, Jon Katz, 2502 State Route 22, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

If you prefer, you can send a donation to me and I’ll buy the cards: Jon Katz via Paypal, [email protected] or by check, Jon Katz, Gift Cards,  P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

You can see and purchase the gift cards here.

You can also support the Mansion/ Refugee Fund by sending a contribution to me via Paypal, [email protected], or by check, Jon Katz, Mansion/Refugee Fund, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

Thank you for helping me help these good and beautiful people.


  1. I’m getting the same Google mail page. The link is mail.google.com, and it takes me to my gmail account. Then it states “the conversation you requested could not be loaded.” Tried it in both Firefox and Chrome. Odd. I’d love to read it since my hometown is a bit north of there.

  2. Jon,

    Thank you for mentioning my blog at http://www.janettravelshere.com

    I don’t feel so alone when I know there are people out there reading my stories.

    I wanted to add that I am happy to share research I have regarding living in your vehicle if you have lost your home. There is no shame in it and actually aot of freedom if you can make it an adventure. People are welcome to write me via my blog and I will be happy to share what I can.

    Much love,


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