A family who lost everything in a fire is “overwhelmed with joy” after hearing strangers from across Lancashire have clubbed together to offer them support.
Roy and Lisa Atherton, whose family was left homeless after a fire at their home last week, are “overjoyed” after donations of clothing, toys and money to help them through Christmas flooded in.
Kind-hearted Cheryl Johnson, 44, who lives near Preston, was so moved by the family’s plight she has even offered to let them stay in her home while they get back on their feet.
Cheryl said: “I don’t like children being homeless, especially this time of year.
“Over the last few years I’ve had health issues, lost family members and now run the Preston and Leyland fund-raising team for Guide Dogs. I see how charity helps in different ways to different walks of life.
“If you can help others then do it.
“It doesn’t cost anything except time and compassion.”
The Atherton family, which includes dad Roy and mum Lisa’s children Shannon, 14, Megan, 12, Tessa, eight, Peter, nine, Ryan, six, and Helena, two, had moved to Blackpool just six weeks before the fire at their home on Ribble Road earlier this month.
They lost nearly all of their possessions and are currently staying in a hostel.
Since hearing about the blaze, Sam Griffiths, 30, from Warton, has set up an online donation page for the family. She said: “For a family with young children to have nothing at Christmas – no home and no presents – is terrible.
“I’ve set up a Just Giving page and I’m taking donations of clothing, toys and anything else people can donate to help the Athertons get back on their feet.”
Susan Eakins, 23, also from Warton, is putting together gift boxes for each of the children with the help of friends. Susan, who has family related to children who died in a house fire in 2012, said: “I make a Christmas box every year for one boy and one girl but I decided to help the family after I read about them.
“I wouldn’t like to see my child suffer like that. I think it’s lovely that everyone is coming together.”
Laura Mereweather, 25, from Chorley, has decided to do a sponsored bike ride with pal Lauren Keeping, 24, from Leyland, from Preston to Blackpool to raise money for the Atherton’s Christmas.
Laura said: “I’ve got a little boy who’s four years old and if this happened to us I’d hope that the community would get together to help us out which is why we’re doing it.
“Me and a friend were hoping to raise a bit of money so the family can at least enjoy Christmas day or have money towards a deposit on a new home.”
The family thanked everone for rallying around for them.
Dad Roy added: “It’s unbelievable. For complete strangers who have never met us to come together and do this – I’m lost for words.”
Anyone wishing to donate can do so at crowdfunding.justgiving.com/athertonxmas