A special group is headed to Africa to honor a dear friend who passed away from cancer. The group is headed to Zambia to open up Jana's House, a home for orphan children, to continue the legacy of Jana Almendarez.
Jana and her husband, Round Rock Express President Chris Almendarez, were inseparable for 22 years, They committed themselves to each other, their community and their two children, Chase and Luke.
But in June 2015, the Almendarez family geared up for the fight of their lives. Jana was diagnosed with a Stage 4 glioblastoma brain tumor. She fought through 11 months of radiation and chemotherapy but ultimately the cancer won.
"She heard God telling her to fight and we fought and she fought the good fight and she's inspired a lot of people," Chris says.
After Jana lost her battle with cancer in May 2016, Chris got a call from the owner of the Round Rock Express, Reid Ryan. Ryan wanted to talk about Africa.
In their grief, Africa was far beyond any immediate thoughts but the Alemendarez family had been on several mission trips to Zambia helping orphan children in need through Family Legacy.
Jana had felt a deep connection to the children and Reid had a surprise.
"(Reid) said hey listen, I want to talk about Africa, and I go Reid, no. And he goes you listen to me. Were going to Africa I have already talked to Family Legacy and we are going to commit $250,000 to build Jana's House. And it was the first time in year that both Chase and Luke had a smile on their face," Chris says.
Jana's House will be a place for 12 orphaned girls to call a home. it will be the 40th home in the Tree of Life Children's Village in Zambia where children have been rescued from extreme cases of abuse and poverty.
Many have lost both their parents but now live with house moms and will have American schooling.
After a lot of fundraising, Jana's House will officially open early next week. From Austin to Lusaka, Zambia a group of 30 friends and family will be flying for 24 hours to be there for the special occasion.
"I think it does carry on her legacy. I mean she was an amazing woman. She had an amazing personality that just lit up the room and everyone who met her loved her and she would want this to happen," says former Olympian and Texas State Assistant Softball Coach Cat Osterman who will be on the trip.
Chris says he know it's going to be an emotional trip. "Those kids have prayed for Jana and this is a big week. It's going to be a tough week with Christmas coming up and it's going to be my first Christmas without Jana in 22 years and so I think if I can get on that plane and go love on these orphans its going to do me and my boys some good."
The group will spend time playing baseball, softball and soccer with the children. Sharing that giving spirit that Jana embodied for many years to come.
Jana's House will need continuous fundraising for the years to come. If you would like to donate or follow along on the group's journey you can head here.