In the face of tragedy, the East Mecklenburg High School community has come together to support one of its own.
The morning of Feb. 3, East Mecklenburg senior Timothy Boardman lost his younger brother, Kevin, and the family's home in a fire that started while the family was asleep.
Timothy and his parents, Bob and Cindy, escaped, but Kevin, 11, had to be pulled from the home by firefighters from Station No. 29 on Margaret Wallace Road, who were called to the scene.
A fifth-grader at Idlewild Elementary School, Kevin died Feb. 5 at a burn unit in Columbia, S.C., where he had been taken for treatment.
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Firefighters couldn't find evidence of working smoke detectors in the home, reported The Charlotte Observer's news partner, WCNC News Channel 36.
Where the split-level house at 6200 Springfield Drive once stood is now just a burnt framework. The wooden roof slates are blackened from the smoke, and the windows are boarded up with plywood.
The contents of the house are strewn on the front lawn: piles of broken bookshelves and bed frames, charred Lego pieces and action figures, hundreds of paperback books crusty brown and waterlogged.
Against a hardwood tree in the front yard is a pillar of balloons and a large goodbye card for Kevin Boardman from his classmates at Idlewild Elementary, which is just a couple hundred yards up the road.
"We will think and remember you from this poster," the card says. "We hope you R.I.P. We love you."
In less than one hour, several people roll down their car windows and talk to neighbor Lisa Nickerson, a close friend of the Boardman family, asking how they can help. They each write a check made out to Bob and Cindy Boardman, which Nickerson will deliver to them.
John McLaughlin and Mike Garrett with Poole's Reconstruction and Restoration Service were hired to comb through the rubble for anything valuable. They take their findings back to the shop, where professionals restore them as much as possible. Then the family decides if they want to keep the items.
Picking through the remnants of the Boardman's home, McLaughlin and Garrett salvaged family photos, paperwork from a desk drawer, a handful of baby blankets, and a wedding album - miraculously unharmed.
Garrett found Bob Boardman's car keys and wallet - both crucial finds because without any form of identification, even doing heart-breaking tasks like getting a death certificate is difficult.
"I can't begin to understand what these people go through," said McLaughlin.
After work that day, Garrett called his son just to tell him, "I love you."
"Something like that really gets to you," he said.
Without their son and brother, a house, and the possessions that make a house a home, the Boardman family is living temporarily in an extended-stay hotel suite and working with the Charlotte Chapter of the American Red Cross to find housing.
On Feb. 8, East Mecklenburg High sent out an e-mail with ways for concerned families in the community to help. A fund has been established for donations called the "Boardman Family Love Fund."
The school also is collecting clothing appropriate for Timothy Boardman and his parents.
Although the Boardmans don't need household items right now, they will eventually. That's why giving gift cards is a good idea, East Mecklenburg counselor Sandy Rhinehart said, so that when the family finds temporary housing they can buy food and essentials such as towels and sheets.
"Unfortunately, bad things happen, but good can come out of them," said Rhinehart, who's been working with East Mecklenburg social worker Lynn Bryan to orchestrate assistance for the Boardmans. "Can you imagine ... having to start completely over again?"
"This family heartbreak - not only losing all possessions but also losing a child and a brother - the loss is insurmountable," said East Meck social worker Lynn Bryan.
Bryan's office has become the defacto clothing donation site.
"Immediately after people heard about the fire, people started getting in touch with me...asking, 'What can we do? How can we organize (something)?'" said Bryan.
Rhinehart said East Mecklenburg students and families have been donating money, and the student congress is raising funds and collecting clothes. Teachers are working with Timothy Boardman to make sure he stays on track to graduate in June.
Representatives from the Charlotte Fire Department came to the school to discuss fire safety and sent information home with the students. If a household doesn't have a smoke detector, the Fire Department can put one in, said Rhinehart.
"We're all sort of working together," said Rhinehart. "We've got a good East Meck family. ... It's been a great come-together kind of thing, when tragedy sets in."