Santa Barbara- S County

Santa Barbara couple continues to care for toddler one year after young mom dies in car crash

New life for little Lukas

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A tragic car crash that claimed the life of a young woman was a defining moment in the lives of Dan LaBerge and Robin Unander-La Berge of Santa Barbara.

August 9, 2017 marks the one-year anniversary of the death of 19-year-old Daniella Hearn.

The couple had briefly met Hearn through their non-profit Mother's Helpers-an organization which provides new moms in need with essential baby items.

Hearn was going through a difficult time as a single mom and a Santa Barbara City College student. She reached out for help on Facebook. Her son, Lukas was just one-year-old when he began staying at the couple's home.

Weeks later, Hearn stopped by the couple's home to visit Lukas, but he was fast asleep. Dan snapped a photo of the boy sleeping in a crib and was planning to text it to Hearn, but she never received it.

Hours later, Hearn was involved in a high speed crash on Cliff Drive. Hearn, the driver and a passenger were killed when the Lexus Sedan they were riding in hit a power pole and a large tree. One passenger survived.

At that time, the couple had temporary legal guardianship of Lukas, which soon after became permanent. Lukas' father lived in another state and Hearn's family members were unable to take care of the little boy.

The couple who have two young children of their own, Lilia 5 and Hudson 8, soon realized Lukas would become a part of their family.

"I saw a need, stepped up and then stayed the course," said Unander-LaBerge.

In the year since the accident, life with Lukas has been a busy, but wonderful experience.

"People often say to me, 'Oh he is such a lucky boy.' In the beginning, I thought that too, but now I think we are such a lucky family," LaBerge said. "He's such a joy to be around."

The family of five has adjusted to a new schedule and daily routine. Lukas recently celebrated his second birthday and went on a month-long trip with the family to Europe.

The couple hopes to keep providing Lukas with a loving home for as long as they possibly can.

"All we can do is love him and hope we put him on the road to having a greater sense of stability and the knowledge of family in his heart," LaBerge said. "Good comes from good deeds and we should all step up."

If you would like to donate to the couple's non-profit Mother's Helpers, click here.

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