July 28, 2020 --
On June 24, the Cleveland Heights High School’s 18U summer baseball team was supposed to play an away game in Perry, Ohio. But the Perry field was soaked from an overnight rainstorm so the game was moved to Heights High’s home field.
And good thing. Because partway through the game, a loud bang surprised players and fans alike. As they looked about, they suddenly heard children screaming as they ran from a house on Washington Boulevard. With the sight and smell of smoke in the air, parents and fans from both teams rushed to help.
A recently renovated duplex had caught fire due to faulty wiring from the garage, leaving two families, totaling 12 people and a dog, without a home.
Chalea Smith and her five children had recently moved to Cleveland Heights and for the first time, each of her kids had their own space with their very own bedroom sets. All of which burned in the fire.
On the other side of the duplex, Latia Brown and her five children lost everything due to either fire, smoke or water damage. Ms. Brown, herself a Heights High graduate, had recently moved back into Cleveland Heights specifically for the schools.
“I wanted my kids to have the same education I got growing up,” she said. Her son, a rising junior, football player, and member of Heights High’s National Honor Society “would never have the things he can get here at Heights in his Honors classes.”
Parents from the Heights Baseball Boosters immediately stepped up to help, promoting separate GoFundMe accounts for each family and coordinating donations of clothing and household goods. “In what has been a terrible year,” said Heights parent Vikki Nowak, “this is a story of community. Even the players have found ways to help.”
Ms. Smith has since found a home in Shaker Heights and is overwhelmed by the encouragement, support, and donations she’s received. The clothing for her children was especially helpful in the days immediately after the fire, as they all ran out of their house with only the clothes on their backs.
Ms. Brown is living with her mother until a home in Cleveland Heights is ready for her family. “This is really hard,” she said. “But I’m so grateful.”
While there have been many offers of donations of clothing and household goods for the Brown family, they will not be ready to accept any material items until they move into their own home, which will hopefully happen in October.
In the meantime, if any readers would like to help either family with financial donations, Latia Brown’s GoFundMe can be found here
and Chalea Smith’s here