Highlands County livestock auction lifts up family devastated by COVID-19

A family devastated by COVID-19 is being held together by an outpouring of support from their community. 

It all came together at a youth livestock auction and the amazing price that was paid for two pigs.

It played out at the Highlands County Fair when 16-year-old Maria,10-year-old Isaac, and their pigs, were introduced to the crowd. A local business donated the pigs to Maria and Isaac after their parents died of COVID-19 last summer. 

"They did really well with it," Says their sister, 21-year-old Emily. "They took care of the pigs. They enjoyed the work. That’s something they learned from our parents."

The value of hard work and helping people is what the parents, Javier Alvarez and his wife Renee, taught their children. Javier was a handyman. Renee worked in the maternity ward at a Sebring hospital. Both died from COVID last summer. 

At just 21 years old, Emily didn’t know which way to turn.

"I didn’t know how I was going to begin to do much of anything," she says.

But those two pigs and their Highlands County community came through.

"We live in a small county, so I feel like we’re very connected and the agriculture community is very tight-knit here," says Laura Barben, who is among dozens of local residents helping the family. 

At the youth livestock auction at the Highlands County Fair, the bids for those pigs were flying. 

"Let’s start out at $10 thousand dollars," said the auctioneer. "I have 15, 20, 25 thousand dollars," he said.

Emily looked on in amazement, "I was like ‘OK this is a lot of money for two pigs,’ but then it started going up and up and up."

In the end, it was amazing. "We come together as a community with $80 thousand dollars is what we’ve got tonight," announced auctioneer Bryan Trimble.

The money was raised through 98 separated donations from members of the community. 

It brings new hope to a family facing many challenges. 21-year-old Emily is now the guardian of her three younger siblings. " I would say thank you so much for that. It’s going to help a lot. It’s going to change so much," she says. 

Thanks to the lessons of hard work and the generosity of neighbors, those two pigs paid off for a family’s future.