RACINE — A special surprise for a young boy in Racine who lost everything in an apartment fire late February.
A 16-unit apartment building, located on the 2300 block of Anthony Lane, caught fire and was deemed a total loss by the Racine Fire Department.
Nine-year-old Austyn Loshek and his mother lost everything, including his beloved kitten to the fire at The Maples, but community members showed up at Wadewitz Elementary School with a gift that was purrfect in every way.
When you ask Loshek what was the hardest part of the fire for him, he said easily losing his cat. He said he misses playing fetch with her like a dad and seeing her face every day.
Loshek said the past couple of weeks have been difficult and filled with heartache, but Tuesday afternoon he found a new reason to smile.
"I'm pretty happy," said Loshek, holding back tears.
Loshek was pulled out of class and brought to the library by his principal for the surprise of a lifetime. He walked in wearing a blue and red sweater and red shoes. His eyes immediately got big as he saw all of the people waiting for him in the library.
Racine Police Officer Travis Brady began speaking to him. He asked him a few questions before telling him he was getting a new kitten, but before handing him the new kitten he wanted to honor the kitten Loshek had lost.
Brady handed Loshek a stuffed animal that looked kind of like Lily, according to Loshek.
"So I know we can't ever replace Lily, but this beautiful little girl is all your buddy," Brady smiled.
In tears, Loshek could not believe it. "I was crying because I didn't think I would get another cat."
Brady works on the Community Oriented Policing Unit and met Loshek and his mother, Amanda when he reached out to the families impacted by the fire.
The COP unit had been around for 30 years in Racine. The purpose is to build relationships and improve the quality of neighborhoods. Brady connected with Paws Up Rescue, a nonprofit foster rescue based out of Sheboygan who waived all adoption fees on the kitten.
"It was overwhelming but at the same time I was really grateful that the community came together at the time of need," Brady smiled.
His mother, Amanda said it was heartbreaking to tell him Lily did not make it, but she's thankful the community helped her little boy. "He's the most important thing in my life," she said. "His happiness is everything for me."
While a name is still in the works for the new pair of friends, a new bond is already forming.
"I think there will be an inseparable bond that he and I will have forever," Brady said. "He's a great person to do this for me," added Loshek.
If you would like to help the families impacted by the fire, click here for a GoFundMe created by Brady.