MILWAUKEE -- Maryland Avenue Montessori in Milwaukee is going above and beyond to help one of their students and their mother get back on their feet after a house fire took almost everything from them.
Initially, 10-year-old Nicole Hayes and her mother were left stranded in a hotel with only a few, small donations from the Red Cross. But over the past week, the school, along with her girl scout troop, has helped collect more than $3,000 along with basic necessities for the two.
"Knowing that people are supporting us, it made a lot easier to process this." Hayes said. "Anything helps. Even the smallest thing. Even a teddy bear made me very very happy."
Hayes says she still has painful flashbacks of the fire spreading from the house next door before engulfing her house in flames, taking everything from her stuffed animals and clothes to her favorite American Girl Doll.
But the kindness and generosity of those in her school and community have made this nightmare easier to handle. Especially, the kindness of Joe DiCarlo, Maryland Avenue Montessori's Principal.
"It’s just such a hardship when something like this happens out of the blue," DiCarlo said. It’s amazing to see that happening right around you, everyone pitching in. Even one of the families has offered a place to stay until they find permanent housing."
However, DiCarlo realizes helping the Hayes' family doesn't just end after a week of support, it's a long-term process.
"We know that this doesn’t end after a week of support. And that’s one great thing about our community. People recognize that it’s not just one moment in time, this is a hardship for a while," he said.
At the end of the day, Hayes said it's not about the material objects or generosity. She's just happy her and her mom still have each other.
"Our lives matter most. I mean, me not having my mom or she not having me is something indescribable that I don’t even know," she said."I’m very thankful."
Investigators confirmed the fire started at the house next door. The house appears to be suspicious and they are still attempting to determine if the fire was intentionally set.
If you would like to help Nicole and her mom, you can visit their GoFundMe page.