The Berry Family: A Story of Heartbreak and Compassion


The Berry family before the accident

A few months ago, I read the most tragic story about a family in Texas who were in a car accident. The parents died, two of the children were severely injured, paralyzed from the waist down, and one survived. Two of the children will never walk again, and it breaks my heart.   The story has stayed with me ever since, both in reality and in my nightmares.  Personally, I have a friend who knew this family very well.  She has been posting about them ever since this horrible accident occurred on Facebook and has brought every detail of the incident to light.  It’s one of the worst stories that I’ve ever heard.

There has been an outpouring of support in their community as a result of people like my friend, but there is so much more that needs to be done.
Using the power of social media, everyone from Justin Bieber and Britney Spears to Lady Gaga and Usher have asked their fans to “Show Your Hearts” with donations at showyourhearts.org and via text message (texting BERRY to 85944 donates $10). Their call to arms has meant the world to Matt Berry, the kids’ uncle.

With the help of my friend, I want to tell their story here and later, how we can all help.

Here is her message about her dear friends, who innocently passed away much too early in their lives, and what has happened to their three lovely children:

We moved to Houston, Texas 8 years ago.  We did not know a soul, but that stereotype of Southern hospitality rings true.  Many people immediately starting inviting us (yes, all six of us) over for Shabbat dinners and sunday afternoon swims.  One of the first were my friends Robin and Josh Berry.  Robin invited me for Rosh Hashanah, which occurred immediately after a hurricane, just a couple of months after we moved.   Our kids are in the same class at the day school and are good friends.  Ever since then I had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with the Berrys.  We became fast friends and spent a lot of time laughing together.  Even during my darkest times when my husband and I each lost our father during the same month in December 2008, the Berrys were there to support us.  

It helped that Robin was the family life director of our shul, Congregation Beth Yeshurun, the largest conservative shul in the USA.  Many family events revolve around the shul and there are dinners, lectures, dancing, programs, etc. almost every week.  These are well attended and welcoming.

Josh Berry started a “guys night out”, where Jewish men of all ages would gather to drink beer together every tuesday night.  It was an easy way to have an informal group of friends that is still on-going.

All of this came screeching to a halt on July 2, 2011.  As many of us were picking up our children from CYJ-Texas, we heard the horrible and inconceivable news that there had been a terrible car accident.  The Berry family was returning from a vacation to New Mexico and Colorado, when another car in the opposite lane decided to pass a slower moving car.  He crossed over into their lane and hit the Berry’s minivan head on.  There was no alcohol or phone use in either car.  Everyone was properly buckled in.  The Berrys were going the speed limit, which on this remote road was 80 MPH.

Robin and Josh died at the scene.  Their youngest child, Willa age 6, was the only one conscious.  She identified her parents to the police.  Her brothers were life flighted to a regional medical center.  

Fast forward to day, four months after the accident.  Their two boys, ages 8 and 9 are paralyzed from the waist down and are not expected to improve further.  Willa has severalberryfamily metal pins in her limbs.  They are in a rehab facility in Chicago.  The aunt and uncle who are not their legal guardians are overwhelmed.  They already had two children and now they have five.  They are trying to alter their house to accommodate two handicapped children, around the clock nursing care and the shock of losing their brother and sister-in-law.  They are trying to handle the day-to-day problems of raising these children, transporting them, making sure they get the best medical and psychological care possible.

I am raising funds through selling these bracelets.  I am requesting a minimum donation of $5/bracelet.  Please help these children have the best possible chance.  100% of the proceeds go to the Berry Children’s Trust.  Check out the website on TheBerryChildren.org.
I am sure that by this point you are crying as much as did for this family who are strangers to me.  My friend is sending me 100 bracelets to sell within my community.  If you would like to have some sent to you to raise money for the children in your community, please respond in the community and I will get in touch. OR you can donate to the Joshua and Robin Berry Children’s Trust here.

Or you can send a check payable to:

Joshua and Robin Berry Children’s Trust

Bank of Texas

510 Bering, 5th Floor

Houston, Texas 77057

The IRS does not permit 501c3 status for entities solely benefitting certain individuals. Donations via this link are generally not eligible for tax deduction because the donations are for the exclusive benefit of the Berry children as individuals. For Large Donations, questions or comments, please email: admin@theberrychildren.org.

As heart-breaking as this story is, we have to learn from it.  We have to prepare our children for emergencies and the fact that life can change in an instant.  We have to tell each other we love one another more often that we do.  We have to make sure that as parents, we are prepared for the worst.  We need to have a will in place to take care of our children if something happens to us.  And we need to have as a supportive community as the one in Houston, Texas that includes compassionate people like my friend.

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  1. Holly,
    Thanks for telling the story. Robin and Josh were such great people. Most of all, they loved each other, they loved their kids, and they loved life.
    I hope people will read this, think of Robin and Josh, and take the time to appreciate the ones they love.

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