The North Carolina National Guard called – Army medic Luis Ocampo was needed in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Then, when the 24-year-old returned to his home in Charlotte, he found a window open and all of his valuables gone. In that moment, however, he had no idea just how the community would step up to help him.
Ocampo hails from La Paz, Bolivia, although he has subsequently made his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, with his girlfriend, Kailey Finch. And the pair share a son, named Lucian Ezra, who was born on October 9, 2017.
But disaster would hit North Carolina in September 2018, when Hurricane Florence made landfall. And the storm brought heavy rainfall to areas along the state’s coast. Florence then traveled inland, causing rivers to overflow and prompting massive flooding.
Relief efforts began, however, as soon as the storm had passed, with organizations such as the Red Cross and FEMA stepping in to provide housing and supplies to residents. The North Carolina National Guard was also deployed to the scene – and that meant Army medic Ocampo had to go too.
So, with her boyfriend gone, Finch decided to take Lucian and await Ocampo’s return at his parents’ house. “I felt safer there,” she would tell People in October 2018. While she, Ocampo and their son were away, though, their dog remained at the family’s home.
Then, when Ocampo came home on September 21, he instantly knew something was wrong. First, he saw that the dog, who had been left indoors, was bounding around in the house’s backyard. The back door had been unlocked, the soldier realized.
Finch later described what had happened to People. “Someone came in through our son’s bedroom window. They busted the locks with a shovel and propped open the window. The house was trashed,” she said. Unfortunately, the perpetrator had looted the place too.
And inside, the damage was clear. Many of the couple’s electronic devices were gone, which meant that Ocampo had lost the laptop required for school work. Yet the looter didn’t stop there. They had also bagged other valuable belongings – some of which had sentimental meaning, including a coin collection gathered by Ocampo’s grandmother. Even the fridge hadn’t been out of bounds, since food had been snatched from there.
So, Finch took to Facebook to try and find out more about the crime. “This soldier, my soldier… was out on the coast helping with hurricane relief,” she wrote on the social media site. “When he came home, he found that he had lost everything of importance. We are trying to get the word out and see if anyone has any information about who may have taken it.”
However, the couple probably didn’t anticipate what would happen next. Their friend Mary Elise Capron saw Finch’s appeal for information, and while she didn’t have any insight to share, she did have an idea to help. Ultimately, then, Capron created an online fundraiser for Ocampo and Finch.
And on the GoFundMe page Capron set up, she wrote, “Luis Ocampo is an NC Army medic with six years of honorable service. Recently, he was on state active duty helping with Hurricane Florence relief efforts. He returned home to find an empty, ransacked house. He did all he could to help those in a time of need, and now he is the one in a time of need.”
Capron’s message continued, “Every penny could help himself, his girlfriend and their baby. I have worked closely with Ocampo in the National Guard, and he is an amazing soldier and person. I am honored to know him and cannot believe something so terrible could happen to someone so dedicated to the service, his family and school.”
Yet while Capron initially set the fundraiser’s target at $5,000, the cause’s hundreds of donors eventually smashed that total. In less than two weeks, they had already raised close to $15,000 for the young soldier and his family.
And Finch would describe the public’s kindness as “overwhelming.” “It was way more than we needed,” she told People. She and Ocampo therefore asked Capron to end the donation drive so as not to “abuse people’s generosity.”
But Finch and Ocampo still wanted the public to be able to give back if they had missed the cut-off for donating to the appeal. So, they came up with a solution. And in a GoFundMe update, Capron told donors what the couple wanted them to do.
On the page, Capron wrote, “Due to everyone’s generosity, Luis will be able to move on from this terrible event and replace what he lost! Please understand that this fund was not created to create a capital profit; it was designed to help a soldier in need.”
“Luis and I have come together to offer another option as a way to give back – donating to the charity of his choice,” Capron went on. “Luis has chosen the Soldiers and Airmen Assistance Fund (SAAF), a non-profit charitable organization that gives grants to soldiers in need,” she wrote, before urging readers to give money directly to the SAAF.
“This way, you will be able to support other soldiers in need and give back to the community on behalf of Luis,” Capron concluded. Ocampo and Finch were also putting their advice into practice; they funneled the extra funds they had received into the charity too.
On top of that, the couple told People that they had given some of their money to another soldier who had had to relocate to a hotel post-hurricane because a tree had hit his home. Finch added, “Other people really need help that they can’t get.”
In fact, the ease with which Finch and Ocampo had received help was the inspiration for their own good deed. Ocampo explained, “A big part of wanting to give the donations comes from seeing how generous people have been, and I wanted to pay that back to someone else who needed help.” His girlfriend added that her family were very fortunate. “We’re very happy none of us are hurt. We are so, so grateful,” she said.