Like many others in the area, in the wake of a fire that completely destroyed the home of a Bloomfield family on Friday night, Krista Legge immediately thought of what she and her family could do to help.
She told The Packet she and her husband, Michael, started talking about how they could help, and how they could involve their five-year-old daughter Olivia in the process.
They had already planned a birthday party on Sunday for Olivia, who turns six on Dec. 20.
“So I was thinking about how we could incorporate something to do for the family and involve Oliva as well.”
She and her husband thought about donating something from the party.
“Then we sat down to talk to Olivia about what had happened, and the fire; we explained that the children had unfortunately lost presents in the fire.”
Olivia immediately had her own idea of how to help.
“We hardly even had the idea out of our mouth when she took the initiative and said, ‘Mommy and daddy, I don’t need presents. Let’s give my presents to the little boy and girl.’”
“I was surprised, but she’s always had a huge heart. She’s a very giving child.”
The family posted a video to Facebook of Olivia requesting that people bring toys and money not for her, but for the family who had just lost their home.
They also extended the guest list, opening up the party to anyone in the community who wanted to drop by with gifts for the Bloomfield family.
Krista says it made for a heartwarming birthday party.
“She was at her party and she knew that the presents weren’t going to be for her. Several times, when somebody came to the door with a present she would greet them and say, ‘Oh my gosh, another present for the little boy and girl!'"
By the end of Sunday, Olivia had collected $535, plus gift cards and a pile of toys.
As of Monday evening, she had collected a total of $665.
“It’s awesome. There’s no other way to really escribe it but awesome. And it’s an expensive time of year… not everyone can afford to give a little bit extra, but so many people have been so amazing and made it possible.
“We’re beyond proud of her.”
Olivia, who attends Kindergarten at Random Island Academy, did not have to go entirely without some presents of her own.
“A couple of people brought a gift for both the boy and the girl, and said 'No, Olivia has to have a present too.'”
This is just one of the examples of the outpouring of support for the Sibley and White family in the wake of the Dec. 14 fire.
For firefighters who responded to the call, it was a devastating scene.
Chad Layte, fire chief of the Lethbridge fire department, says they received the call for assistance from the Musgravetown Fire Department around 6:30 p.m.
“When we arrived at the scene, the house was fully engulfed in flames. It took approximately four and a half hours to extinguish the fire.”
Fellow fire fighter Blaine Hicks says that when the call came in everyone was already at the fire hall working on the department’s float for a parade on Saturday, and wasted no time heading to the scene.
“When I tipped the top of the hill by Sexton’s Lumber, I thought the whole cul-de-sac was on fire. My heart instantly sank,” she told The Packet.
“When we got there the house was fully engulfed. There was no way to save the house,” said Hicks, who says she has never had to face such a fire in her three years with the department.
She says around the home were the melted remains of what looked like the family’s inflatable Christmas decorations.
Fortunately, none of the family was hurt, but they lost all their personal belongings.
At that terrible scene Hicks was inspired to do something to help the family have “the best Christmas ever” in the wake of their loss.
“I made the Facebook group that night and the result was instant… 3 o’clock in the morning I was still answering messages on my phone.”
As of Monday evening, the group, A Sibley and White Christmas, had over 680 members, and had become a hub for collecting donations and support for the family of four: Maryanne and Stephen, and children, Matthew, 7, and Rachel, 2.
Hicks says she received $700 in cash the first day alone. By Monday morning she had collected $1250, plus a handful of gift cards and bags of toys, and handmade quilts for the children.
And that’s not including donations that have been collected by others or sent to the family directly.
Hicks says individuals, families, church groups, groups like the Clarenville Area Minor Hockey Association, schools and businesses have all donated to the cause, and the generosity keeps coming.
She says the response isn’t totally surprising.
“I figured everybody would pull together. We usually do in times like this.”
Connie Diamond, who heard about the fire late Friday night, is one of the many people doing what they can to help.
She was at Random Square Mall in Clarenville from 12 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday accepting donations for the family.
“I was thinking about it all last night, so I decided to use this as a drop off site,” said Diamond.
“Every community wants to help.”
This Saturday, Dec. 22, Santa will make a special visit to Lethbridge to present the family with the gifts of toys and donations collected from all those who rallied to help.