By Steven Graves

EVERGREEN PARK, Ill. (CBS) — A family in the southwest suburbs is finding joy in a journey that has been anything but joyous.

While the woman’s two children were diagnosed with a rare disorder, she put out a plea to the public. As CBS 2’s Steven Graves reported Monday, some unexpected donors went above and beyond to help.

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Gabby and Matteo’s childhood started out like most – playing and enjoying life with not a care in the world.

But then, life got complicated – first for Gabby.

“She was falling a lot. She had trouble going up stairs,” said the children’s mother, Jennifer Ramirez.

Doctors diagnosed Gabby with a disease called spinal muscular atrophy. Soon after, the same symptoms showed up in Matteo.

“He said: ‘Mommy, my legs shake before I fall. My legs feel funny,’ and I knew instantly what it was,” Ramirez said, “It just totally blindsided us.”

SMA is a rare genetic disorder that affects muscle growth and makes everyday tasks such as walking very tiresome. Ramirez researched, and knew her kids would need wheelchairs – and a normal van wouldn’t work.

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“The guilt that you have when you know that you’re going to the store with your kids and it’s too hard to put two wheelchairs in your car, so one child ends up kind of suffering,” Ramirez said.

A crowdfunding page raised more than $4,000, but the funds dried up around Christmas. But that all changed when a local donor also researched, scoured the internet, and reached out.

“Her and her husband had purchased a wheelchair van for her mother, and unfortunately, she passed away about a month ago, and so they knew that they wanted to donate the vehicle to someone,” Ramirez said.

The family got the special van on Sunday, free of charge. Registration, plates, and other expenses are also paid for.

And a loss in one family is now a gain in so many ways for another.

“Their spirit and their gift moves on,” Ramirez said. “It continues.”

The Ramirez family said the van will also help the kids get to events to advocate to other kids who have the condition.

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The family will use money raised online for mounting medical bills. The van donor wants to remain anonymous.