F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.”
The truth of life is that heroes don’t always show up when they are needed, but heroes did arrive in time to lift the spirits of local children for Christmas during a time of tragedy even Fitzgerald would have had difficulty scripting.
Lacy Yerian is the mother of two children and the legal guardian of four more. She gained custody of the four children from her former sister-in-law when the state deemed the parents unfit. Three of the four children were born with fetal alcohol syndrome.
Yerian’s own children are debilitated with Oppositional Defiance Disorder and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Her daily challenges reach beyond the norm, but life sometimes ignores the burden already in place and compounds difficulty with tragedy. Yerian’s husband died of a heart attack this summer at the age of 31.
She was left alone to care for own children and her late husband’s sister’s children, and still life’s dark side was not through with this family. A mid-December fire claimed the struggling family’s home and all of their belongings.
Yerian was able to move into her father’s one-bedroom home where he also lived with his girlfriend and her two children. Her father is disabled following 15 heart attacks.
For the past several weeks, the entire brood has resided within the small confines of the home.
Yerian’s family has nothing but the clothes on their back, mostly donated by the Red Cross following the fire.
Five of the six children require special schooling at Learning Unlimited, and that is where the AMI Privateers learned of the family’s misfortunes.
“Kathy (Griffenkranz) and I visited the kids and they are well mannered,” said Wayne Collins, secretary of the Privateers. “The mother cleans houses for neighbors when possible to supplement her meager income, but it is random and certainly not enough.”
Collins said he doesn’t recall ever seeing a family in more dire straits, and brought the family’s plight to the Privateers board of directors. It wasn’t long before the Privateers adopted the family for its annual Christmas charity event.
The family would otherwise have let Christmas pass as just another day.
Yerian’s only help comes from her niece, 14-year-old Destiny. She lives with her aunt and does her best to help instead of living a normal 14-year-old’s existence. The other children are 14-year-old Austin; Timothy, 8; Mariah, 6; Sky, 5; Summer, 4; and Adam, 3.
Yerian’s monthly income is about $800 from social security and the state-sponsored Relative Care Giver fund. The family has applied for food stamps and they have a Goodwill furniture voucher from Project Heart for when they have a place to call home.
The Privateers rolled up to the Yerian home Christmas Eve in true Island style, complete with Santa Claus, a lighted sleigh and, of course, plenty of pirates. Members of the Privateers take time away from their own holiday plans to ensure another family has a good Christmas.
“It started a few days before Christmas when a few members visited the family with a Christmas tree and decorations,” said Collins. “The members stayed and, with the help of the children, decorated the tree and it was beautiful,” said Collins.
The Privateers returned Christmas Eve with plenty of gifts for the children and the rest of the family. The evening included a complete, prepared Christmas dinner.
“The children were excited when we pulled up in our lighted sleigh laden with gifts,” said Collins. “The looks on their faces were quite simply, priceless. It felt good to be a part of such an event. We got back much more than what we gave, quite honestly.”
Collins said all the Privateers are proud of the work they do in the community, but this particular moment truly drove home the importance of being involved.
“It was a lot of work by a lot of members, and we look forward to this event every year because it is so special and unique,” he said.
“We were told by Lacy’s dad that the kids were so excited that they barely slept that night because they were so eager to open their presents on Christmas morning,” noted Collins. “It is always gratifying to help people, but to help people, children in particular, during this time of year is beyond description.”
This is the first year since the Privateers began doing their Christmas family adoptions that the story has been provided to the media. Yerian gave permission to the Privateers to share her story, but she did not return phone calls for comment.
The family now has qualified for subsidized housing, paid for by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and approved by local public housing agencies.
Christmas was saved by the Privateers, but the miracles will continue for Yerian’s children, who expect to have a new home soon.