Operation Pedro Pan
In 1961, two boys in Cuba – ages 8 and 6 – packed a small bag and boarded a plane bound for the United States. They had no parents with them and spoke no English.
The boys, Jose (age 8) and his brother Will (age 6) – pictured above – were part of the largest exodus of refugee children from Cuba. It became known as “Operation Pedro Pan,” an attempt led by a pastor in Miami and assisted by the U.S. State Department to get children out of the communist country led by Fidel Castro.
Jose and Will arrived in Miami, where they stayed in refugee group homes and in and out of foster care while they awaited extended family, who had agreed to take them but didn’t yet have the money to provide for them. Other kids took what little the boys had, and adults mistreated them. One day, their 14-year-old cousin visited and noticed Jose had a black eye and bruises from getting into fights. He made arrangements that day to take the boys home with him.
The boys stuck together and ultimately were reunited with their parents six months later. The family eventually moved to Chicago.
Jose grew up with a strong work ethic. He married a woman named Dorothy, and together they had three beautiful daughters. Jose and Dorothy saved and bought a home in Geneva, where they raised their girls.
Sadly, Jose was killed in a car accident in 2003. Dorothy and the girls lived on in their Geneva home before selling it in 2014.
Dorothy and Jose’s home was sold to Ellie and Jason Lebron, the same home where Radical Love was founded. Today, Radical Love serves a community of refugee families and neighbors who are so much like Jose and his family 60 years ago.
Dorothy and her daughters have become supporters and volunteer with Radical Love; the oldest daughter Lauren served on our Career Day panel at our Summer Program for students.
“Radical Love reminds me of him and his own difficult journey with his family to come here from Cuba. It is beautiful how this home has come full circle, and I believe it is all part of God’s divine plan,” shares Dorothy.