A family who lost everything in a fire is “overwhelmed with joy” after hearing strangers from across Lancashire have clubbed together to offer them support.
Roy and Lisa Atherton, whose family was left homeless after a fire at their Blackpool home last week, are “overjoyed” after Gazette readers offered donations of clothing, toys and money to help them through Christmas.
I saw the Atherton’s story in The Gazette and felt compelled to help out
One reader has even offered to put them up in their home over the festive period.
On hearing the news, teary-eyed Roy said: “It’s unbelievable. For complete strangers who have never met us to come together and do this – I’m lost for words.”
The Gazette reported last week how heroic Megan Atherton, 12, woke her mum, dad and five siblings when she woke to discover flames tearing through the building.
Sam Griffiths, 30, from Warton, who has set up an online donation page for the family, said: “I saw the Atherton’s story in The Gazette and felt compelled to help out. For a family with young children to have nothing at Christmas – no home and no presents – is terrible.
“I’ve set up a Just Giving page and I’m taking donations of clothing, toys and anything else people can donate to help the Athertons get back on their feet.”
Susan Eakins, 23, also from Warton, is putting together gift boxes for each of the children with the help of friends. Susan, who has family related to children who died in a house fire in 2012, said: “I make a Christmas box every year for one boy and one girl but I decided to help the family after I read about them.
“I wouldn’t like to see my child suffer like that. I think it’s lovely that everyone is coming together.”
Laura Mereweather, 25, from Chorley, has decided to do a sponsored bike ride with pal Lauren Keeping, 24, from Leyland, from Preston to Blackpool to raise money for the Atherton’s Christmas.
Laura said: “I’ve got a little boy who’s four years old and if this happened to us I’d hope that the community would get together to help us out which is why we’re doing it.
“Me and a friend were hoping to raise a bit of money so the family can at least enjoy Christmas day or have money towards a deposit on a new home.”
Kind-hearted Cheryl Johnson, 44, who lives near Preston, was moved after reading about the Atherton’s plight and has offered to let them stay in her home while they get back on their feet.
Cheryl said: “I don’t like children being homeless, especially this time of year.
“Over the last few years I’ve had health issues, lost family members and now run the Preston and Leyland fund-raising team for Guide Dogs. I see how charity helps in different ways to different walks of life.
“if you can help others then do it. It doesn’t cost anything except time and compassion.”
The Atherton family, which includes Roy and Lisa’s children Shannon, 14, Megan, 12, Tessa, eight, Peter, nine, Ryan, six, and Helena, two, had moved to Blackpool just six weeks before the fire at their home on Ribble Road. They lost nearly all of their possessions and are currently staying in a hostel.
Lisa said: “We’ve been coming on holiday to Blackpool from St Helen’s for years and it’s always been our dream to move here and we finally did it.
“We’ve been waiting for nine years to do this and now it’s gone up in smoke, literally. We’re taking it one day at a time.”
Roy added: “We are really, really happy and so grateful that people are rallying together even though they don’t know us.
“It’s overwhelming and we’re so thankful.”
Anyone wishing to donate can do so at https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/athertonxmas