Mike Weatherbee, Kristen Sanford and their 20-month-old son, Mason, watch as Jeremy Riley, 13, gives their seven-year-old Dawson, his Blackberry Playbook. Dawson, who is autistic, was particularly upset when he learned he had lost his own tablet in a fire that destroyed the family’s home Feb. 15. Without prompting, Dawson quietly walked over to Jeremy and gave him a hug to show his gratitude for the kind gesture following the photo op.
A young family of four from the Windsor area is still looking for a home after an afternoon fire destroyed theirs in February.
Mike Weatherbee, Kristen Sanford and their two boys, seven-year-old Dawson and 20-month-old Mason, have been staying with a relative since fire ravaged the house they were renting on Tonge Hill Road Feb. 15.
The young family left the house to run some errands in town about 45 minutes before the fire broke out.
When they returned, firefighters were smashing out the living room windows and picking through what was left of the collapsing ceiling in search of hidden flames.
“Everything was black,” recalled Sanford.
“We lost everything,” Weatherbee added.
“What wasn’t actually taken by the fire was taken by the smoke and water and soot.”
They walked away from the fire with the clothes on their backs and the family car.
Weatherbee’s mother, Krista Anthony, referred the young couple to the Matthew 25 Windsor and District Food Bank for emergency provisions.
Anthony, a regular food bank volunteer, says she has gained a better understanding of how some of the food bank’s clients feel since the fire.
“You don’t grasp the devastation until something like this happens in your own family,” she said.
Anthony says Leslie Porter, a fellow food bank volunteer, immediately started asking members of the community to do what they could to help the young family within hours of the fire claiming nearly everything they owned.
“There’s just no way we can ever thank her for all she’s done,” she said.
“She’s been amazing.”
Donations started coming in soon after word spread that the single-income family did not have tenants’ insurance.
Even 13-year-old Jeremy Riley, of Windsor, offered joined in on the efforts to help them get back on their feet.
Jeremy’s mother informed him that seven-year-old Dawson was particularly upset because he lost his Nintendo Wii and tablet in the fire. Dawson, who is autistic, used the electronic devices as learning tools.
Jeremy offered to give Dawson a Blackberry Playbook tablet he hardly used anymore.
“It’s the people you would expect the least that really step up to the plate,” said Weatherbee.
“It’s good to know that there’s good people out there,” Sanford added.
Dawson had little to say in the interview with the Hants Journal, but he did express a keen interest in the photo op that followed the discussion.
“Why are we taking too long to finish talking?” he asked.
Sanford says the kids haven’t been taken to visit what remains of their old home, and she plans to keep it that way.
The family is focusing on finding a three-bedroom home to rent in the Windsor to Brooklyn area. They will be tasked with acquiring new furniture after they have secured a place to live.
A benefit auction for the family will be hosted April 27 at 1 p.m. in the Three Mile Plains Hall. Items donated for the auction can be dropped off at Hants West MLA Chuck Porter’s office, or pick ups can be arranged by calling Leslie Porter at (902) 798-8936.