My research into the fatal fire in my home has continued since I last wrote – partially because the phenomenal team of Marcia from the Stoneham Historical Commission and the top-notch reference librarian at the Stoneham Library have continued to find amazing information for me.
This information includes where the children are buried. I went today with Thane, in the cool after a cloudburst, to pay my regards. As you can see from the careful, meticulous way the flowers have been affixed to the grave stone, these children have not been forgotten by those who loved them. I haven’t found the words yet to reach out to the surviving son, but hopefully I find that way.
One of the themes that Marcia and Maureen have found throughout the documentation on the fire (which really was a big deal), was how amazingly the town of Stoneham came together after the tragedy to support the family. Neighbors rushed over during the fire. Helpers rallied around the ruins of the house. A huge percent of the town turned out for the funeral. (The fifth grade classmates of young Thomas carried the coffins of their classmate and his sister.) And in the long, slow, painful recovery the community raised over a hundred thousand dollars (in today’s money) to help the family rebuild and recover.
It was an inspiring moment of generosity and kindness that made my proud of how my town reacted to this horrible tragedy.
But mixed in between emails with pictures of 60 year old paper clippings are emails from my friend Stef, helping to plan something big. You see, we have a friend who needs help. David is a 3 year old boy with autism. He’s a cheery, energetic, awesome kid. He also has a firm sense of what he wants, no sense of danger, a great sense of direction and a passion for water. This is a terrifying combination for a family who wants to see him stay safe and healthy.
In order to grow safely, David needs a service dog. He’s been accepted by 4 Paws for Ability – an organization that trains service dogs for the specific needs of their population. A service dog will be able to “anchor” David so he can’t bolt. The dog will be trained to help him react appropriately to his environment. And the dog will also be able to quickly locate David (by smell) if he does wander away. Training a dog to do all this is a really big job. In order to make this happen, the Alarcons need to raise $15,000 (plus travel expenses).
David’s mom mentioned this during his brother’s birthday party, and by the time the candles were blown out on the cake, our friend Stefanie was already working on the project. She’s lead the charge to put together an amazing fundraiser event. It’s going to be epic. She’d gotten dinner, a live band, cash bar, amazing raffle items, out-of-this-world silent auction items and more. Every time I talk to her there’s some new story of the amazing generosity of people. Local businesses have made contributions. Friends have given items, or services, or money. Even friends of friends have opened their hearts (and checkbooks) in a way that goes a long way to restore my faith in humanity.
We hear so much about how people are horrible. But you know? A lot of people are really great a lot of the time. Stoneham was profoundly kind to the bereaved family in my home in 1948. And people have been amazingly supportive right here in 2016 – reaching out to help a little boy they may never have met.
So to all of you who have been kind and loving to others lately – thank you.
To all of you who WANT to help out, boy do I have good news for you! You can donate directly. You can email my dear dear friend Stefanie and sign up for a $50 ticket (which given all the cool stuff she’s planning will be a serious bargain). And you can follow along with how it’s going on the Facebook page or at the website!