LOS ANGELES, December 20, 2018 -- Adrian Higueros pauses by a small table that rests on the lawn at Hillsides’ Residential Treatment Center in Pasadena for children in foster care. He runs his hand lovingly along the table’s brightly colored, painted tiles. For the staff and children of Hillsides, the table, which is accompanied by two chairs, is a convenient place to sit down and rest or chat with a friend. For Adrian and his family – his wife Leticia and two daughters Waleska and Elba -- it means much more.
The table is a memorial to their daughter and sister, Rosario Espinosa, who worked as a therapist and program manager Hillsides for five years before dying of cancer in 2012 at age 39. Hillsides’ staff and children hand-crafted the tiles, which express final sentiments about Rosario, such as “thank you for being our angel on earth.”
In honor of Rosario, each year for the last six years, the family has adopted a family in need for Hillsides over the holidays, answering the family’s holiday wishes. “My sister cared so much about helping children, and we want to continue her legacy,” said Waleska.
On this day, the family has gathered on campus to visit Rosario’s memorial and to share stories about their daughter and sister. Adrian remembers the small acts of kindness his daughter performed for the children. “Once, a little girl really wanted to see a play and Rosario took her to dinner, then dropped an envelope on the ground," he said. "When the little girl picked it up, there were two tickets to the play. She was always doing things like that.”
They also recalled how Rosario loved surprising her family with presents, such as Laker game and concert tickets. She also enjoyed helping strangers, for example when she gave up her own umbrella to another woman who was struggling in the rain. “That’s just who she was,” said Adrian. “She was special.”
Rosario received her undergraduate degree from California State University Fullerton and a master’s degree in social work from Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles. Her co-workers at Hillsides miss her to this day.
“Rosario was an amazing therapist, supervisor, and colleague,” said her former supervisor Janice Reid, senior director of clinical services on Hillsides’ Pasadena campus. “She had a way of being so fully present with whoever was in the room. She made people feel like they were the most important person in the world. I think of her often and am grateful for the time I knew her.”
Rosario’s family is doing their best to move past the loss of their daughter and sister, although she remains daily in their thoughts. They enjoy visiting Hillsides, even if the memories of Rosario’s time spent there stir up tears. And for Adrian, this year the visit has also created a new project.
“The tiles need some new grout,” he said, pointing to some irregularities in the memorial table. “I’ll be back in the new year to fix it.” He also plans on stripping and re-finishing the two chairs.
But first, there is shopping to do for the Hillsides family they have adopted, each present lovingly selected with their dearly missed sister and daughter in mind.
Hillsides, with its affiliate Bienvenidos, is dedicated to healing children and young adults, strengthening families, and transforming communities through quality comprehensive services and advocacy. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the agency serves nearly 17,000 children and families in Southern California throughout more than 40 sites, including school-based mental health offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Baldwin Park. Foster care and adoptions services are offered in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties. To learn more about Hillsides, please visit www.Hillsides.org. Visit Hillsides on Facebook @hillsideschildren, on Twitter @Hillsides, or on Instagram @HillsidesPasadena.