BRYCEVILLE, Fla. – A Bryceville family had a lot to be thankful for on Christmas Day, despite losing almost everything including two pet dogs in a raging house fire earlier this month.
J.W. Highsmith could only watch in horror as his family’s Sunowa Springs Trail home for three decades went up in flames Dec. 10. A chimney, charred debris and memories of better days are all that remain.
No one was hurt in the fire, but two of the family’s dogs perished. Among them was their Border collie Abby, the best friend Highsmith credits with alerting them to the fire and saving their lives.
As his family continues to find ways to cope with their hardship, Highsmith said they’re counting their blessings. After all, things could have turned out much worse.
“A lot of people couldn’t look at that and tell it’s been a blessing, but all the love and appreciation has poured out over the last few weeks,” he said as he surveyed the rubble where his home once stood.
While some family photos and other keepsakes somehow survived, the family lost everything else. Much of what they own now, including their clothes, has been donated by the community.
Highsmith, who called the show of support “humbling,” said there is one donation in particular that he truly moved him: a small stocking containing $38 donated by a 7-year-old girl.
The child’s generosity left him speechless. He couldn’t find the words Tuesday to express his gratitude for the gesture.
“When I look at that… you know what the season is,” he said. “The reason for the season… loving and giving.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but Highsmith is eager to learn how it got started.
As for his family, Highsmith said they plan to rebuild their home. He said a cross-shaped scorch mark left behind on the chimney serves as a special reminder of what lies ahead.
“We’re going to make it.”
The community has rallied around the Highsmith family in their time of need. If you'd like to help, you can donate to a GoFundMe account set up to raise money for them. You can also drop off donations by contacting Andrea Garner at (904) 226-0334 or via email at email@example.com.