BLOSSBURG - When an out-of-control fire burned four homes and claimed the life of 11-year-old Gianina E. Carlone on Sunday, neighbors Samantha Yonker, Whitnie Weaver and Sara Mattos felt compelled to help. They have spent the last week pooling their resources to create a benefit for the families, which will be held starting at 9 a.m. Saturday at Island Park.
The fire, which took place early Sunday morning burned the homes of the Boyce, Choplosky, Anderson and McNeal families. The Boyces and Choploskys lived in the same duplex.
"It's been a whirlwind couple of days trying to pull this all together, but now we're really looking forward to it," Weaver said.
A member of the Key Club at North Penn High School, Weaver began spreading the word about the benefit. She expected that a few people would want to help but was amazed at the enthusiastic responses she began to receive.
"Lots of suggestions came in. People started coming to me, volunteering to run various activities. The support has been overwhelming," Weaver said.
Yonker agreed. As the event got bigger and bigger, the three women realized that the fundraiser idea had the ability to make a powerful difference in all four families' lives.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Community benefit for the Choplosky, Boyce, Anderson and McNeal families who lost their homes in a fire Sunday
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Island Park, Blossburg
"Originally, we were just going to raise money for the Choplosky family, but as the event kept growing we thought, why not divide the money equally to all four families," Yonker said.
The benefit will feature many events, including a bake sale, which will begin at 9 a.m. and chicken barbecue, which will begin at 11.
In addition to food, attendees will have the opportunity to purchase vintage goods at the Northern Tier Helping Hands' yard sale. Locals with lightly used items may drop their donations off at the Blossburg Memorial Library or Liberty Fire Auxiliary.
Several local businesses have donated big prizes for a silent auction, which will be held during the afternoon. Items available will include everything from bike helmets, to televisions, jewelry and gift certificates.
"We've had so many businesses donate - we have something for everyone in our silent auction," Yonker said.
The weather on Saturday is expected to be in the high 80s. For visitors who want to beat the heat, the Blossburg pool will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For a small donation, visitors will be able to relax in the pool all afternoon.
All proceeds from the event will be equally divided among the four families.
Andrea Wickman Kulp, of the Brick Tavern, has been selling navy blue T-shirts at the business. Purple T-shirts will be available on Saturday at the benefit. The proceeds from the T-shirts will go exclusively to the Choplosky family.
"There's going to be something here at the park for everyone this Saturday," Yonkers said.
"There's really no reason not to come out, have some fun and help these families who lost everything," she added.