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Family of 'Tornado Baby' receive donations

Joliet's Patten Cat aid family affected by tornado

DIAMOND – Baby Ariana has been nicknamed the “Tornado Baby,” but unlike the tornado that brought devastation for so many, Ariana brings joy to all those around her.

“Well Ariana is going to have quite the story when she grows up,” state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said Wednesday as she met Mari, Jason and Ariana Eaton at Diamond Village Hall.

The family received a caravan full of donations from Patten Cat’s Joliet office, which rents Caterpillar equipment. Two employees of Patten Cat, Mayor Terry Kernc, Rezin and state Rep. John Anthony, R-Plainfield, were on hand to meet the Eatons.

The family is from Sterling Estates subdivision on Will Road.

They were not injured in the tornado that hit Nov. 17, but their home and car were badly damaged. Instead of getting used to her new nursery, Ariana now is staying with her parents at her grandparent’s home in Minooka.

“It’s been a very emotional week. I’ve been on and off crying,” Mari said. “Sometimes I am crying out of pure happiness because people have been so awesome. She’s been so taken care of.”

The EF2 tornado that hit the Coal City and Diamond area damaged more than 220 homes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Tuesday that federal disaster aid is available to Illinois and federal aid will be available to supplement state and local recovery efforts.

Through this, funding will be available to help individuals and businesses affected in 15 counties, including Grundy County.

The Eatons were home just one day with their baby when the tornado hit. Their home sits on a crawl space, so as the sirens blared they ran to Jason’s sister’s house, just five houses down, to take shelter in her basement.

As the tornado hit, Jason laid over his wife, newborn and his niece for protection.

When the storm was over Jason ran to his house to check on his dogs, who were OK.

But his house was not: Windows were broken and a hole in the wall of the master bedroom closet ruined all of the couple’s clothing. The house is uninhabitable and will take at least six months to rebuild.

Since word got out about the new family’s troubles, the Eatons have received an outpouring of help. The day before Thanksgiving they received even more – donations of baby supplies, clothes and other items from Patten Cat.

“We thought we’d be your Thanksgiving surprise,” said Allison Loehman of the marketing department.

The 325 employees provided three pallets worth of items, as well as cash donations and gift cards. And their efforts are continuing to raise funds for the area as a whole through a T-shirt sale.

The T-shirts are $15 and state “Coal City & Diamond, IL Strong.” The shirts can be bought at

“Oh wow, this is amazing,” Mari said upon the news.

Loehman said they called Kernc about adopting a family and she told them about the “Diamond Baby.”

“We heard the story and met last week and we just fell in love with you guys,” Loehman said.

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