From lemonade stand to spaghetti supper to GoFundMe, the people of Pratt are coming together to help a grieving family.
When a fire destroyed a home and left five dead in its wake January 25, the community of Pratt began to pull together, offering support to the surviving victims and relatives in a variety of ways.
A GoFundMe account for the Wheatley/Eggleston families was set up by Sally (Freedman) Cookson, with money raised near $18,000 on Wednesday. The fund has a goal of $25,000.
The following organizations and events have been established by others in the Pratt community to assist the Wheatley/Eggleston/Bates families.
The Hope Center is collecting funds to cover funeral expenses. They are also accepting clothing for the family. They have a list of clothing sizes for family
members and a list of needed clothing.
The Peoples Bank has established two accounts for the family. Donations can be made to the Wheatley Family Funeral Fund with money going to cover funeral costs. This is in conjunction with the Hope Center. Donations can be made to a general family fund to cover other expenses.
A group of school-age children will host a two- day lemonade stand to raise money for the family of the fire victims. The lemonade stand will be from 4 p.m to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 2 and from1p.m.to3p.m.on Saturday, Feb. 3 at the Scout Cabin at East Third and Rochester. Regular lemonade, pink lemonade and tea will be sold on a donation basis. Youngsters hosting the stand are McKenna Blake, Camryn Blake, Braylee Cash, Braxton Cash, Jadyn Tillman, Savannah Copus, Sydney Rilley, Eva Marci and Alexa Marci, said Lisa Smithyman.
“These kids just want to help,” Smithyman said. “They came up with this idea all themselves.”
A memorial vigil for the family will be held at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3 at the Pratt County Veteran’s Memorial Lake. The vigil will include a
balloon launch at 6 p.m. and a candle-light ceremony at 7 p.m. Attendees are asked to bring their own balloons and candles.
Cassandra Verstaete, friend of the fire victims’ family, said the family was hoping people could bring green balloons. Tonja Harrison at Balloon’s and More in Pratt, said she had someone come in and donate money towards balloon costs for those who could not make those arrangements. By 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Harrison had 175 orders for spring green balloons, with unlimited supplies for more if ordered ahead of time.
“Balloons and More will deliver the balloons at 5:50 to the lake where the release is to anyone that doesn't have a balloon,” Harrison said. “We are donating half the price of the balloon, so the balloon is only $.90 each. All the balloons will be spring green color as per request from the family.”
Harrison said she makes no money on the balloons and charging half price doesn't even cover the cost of her expenses, but she is willing to help out. Her heart, like others in the community, has been touched by the grief of the victims' families and she wants to do whatever she can to help.
A community fund-raising spaghetti meal will be held at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 11 at the Municipal Building in the 100 block of West Third. Live music will be provided by “On the Hill,” a local Christian band. The meal is by donation with proceeds going to funeral expenses. The meal is sponsored by the Hope Center and Pass It Forward.
A funeral date for victims has not yet been set. Larrison Mortuary of Pratt is handling those details.