Donors bring Christmas joy to family who lost everything

Sarah Perez Hernandez (on sofa) hands Christmas presents to her sons, Enrique Perez (left) and Aidan Spears. Donors provided the gifts after the family's home burned on Dec. 15.

Enrique Perez and his brother Aidan Spears tear excitedly into the wrapping paper, letting out squeals of joy at the treasures inside.

It's a scene repeated in households all over mid-Missouri on Christmas morning, but it seemed almost out of reach for this family less than two weeks ago. On Dec. 15, the trailer they were living in in Jefferson City burned down. The family lost everything.

"I was thinking there was going to be nothing," the boys' mother, Sarah Perez Hernandez, told KRCG 13. "I was absolutely down. And then the next morning, I'm getting phone calls that everyone's gonna help me."

Within three days, volunteers from all over mid-Missouri had found an apartment in Columbia for the family to live in and helped them set up a new household. Donors then started collecting toys to give to Sarah's children on Christmas day. The response from family, friends, strangers, churches and businesses was overwhelming. The family got so many gifts they had to open them in stages beginning on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas morning, Enrique and Aidan cheered as the wrapping paper fell away, revealing toy cars, action figures, movies and games. Enrique put on a "Star Wars" clone trooper helmet he found in a bag, much to his family's amusement. The haul is so massive the family decided to donate some of the toys to the MU Women's & Children's Hospital.

"I brought it up, and (my children) were like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah! Let's do it," Hernandez said. "Especially the oldest one, he was really wanting to give back."

Hernandez said she planned to take her turn to give back on Christmas night. She said she was very grateful for all the support her family has received.

"There really is a Christmas miracle happening here. I'm very thankful because I would never have even guessed that this could happen. It had never even registered in my mind that the community would pull together like this and help my family."