Connor Leifried was looking at having a bleak start to his fourth grade year at Chatom Elementary and the opening game with his football team, the Modesto Rams.
Just a few days prior a blaze burned through Connor’s home leaving him without any clothes, school supplies or football equipment, save for a lone cleat found on the front lawn. However, it was the sight of that single shoe that set in motion a mission by the Turlock Firefighters Local #2434 to make sure the 9-year-old would have a memorable first day of school and be ready to take the field in his team’s first game on Saturday.
“What these firefighters have done for us and especially Connor is above and beyond what you would expect,” said Connor’s mother Carissa Morgan. “They have been wonderful.”
To have any pleasant experiences come out of this incident probably would have seemed unthinkable to Morgan as she watched the flames swallow her home on Aug. 7.
You don’t realize how much stuff you use on a daily basis until you’ve lost it all and have to start over again.Carissa Morgan
It was just after midnight when Morgan’s boyfriend suddenly awoke. He doesn’t know what exactly woke him up, but it happened at a fortuitous time. Outside the couple’s bedroom was a growing glow of flames moving toward the home. An investigation would later reveal that wiring in a ceiling fan installed on an outdoor covered patio had sparked the fire.
Smoke was starting to gather in the home as the family made their escape with several of their pets, though they were unable to save them all. An older dog, a puppy and Connor’s 4-H rabbit were all lost in the fire.
The task of rebuilding a life after a fire can seem insurmountable at the onset, as Morgan explained.
“You don’t realize how much stuff you use on a daily basis until you’ve lost it all and have to start over again.”
The process of rebuilding got a boost when the Turlock firefighters returned to check on the family and noticed that one cleat.
“They started asking me questions about Connor and where he played football and when he was starting school,” Morgan said.
The firefighters decided their union’s program Random Acts of Kindness could be used to help the family and so they took Connor shopping at Dick’s Sporting Goods, where they outfitted him with everything he would need to play football, plus supplies for the start of the school year.
“If what they did for Connor had stopped then, it alone would have been amazing,” Morgan said.
But the firefighters weren’t done yet. On Monday they rolled up at the property where the family is staying and offered Connor a one-of-a-kind ride to school in a fire engine. It was an experience Connor is unlikely to forget.
“He was so excited and everyone at school was talking about it,” Morgan said. “He said it was the coolest thing he’s ever done.
“You want your kids to have good experiences with the police and firefighters and this has set a good foundation for him,” Morgan said. “He’ll never forget any of this.”