Strength Through the Fire

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Published March 23, 2016
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The Montclarion
Photo Courtesy: Robert Couse-Baker (Flickr) https://www.flickr.com/photos/29233640@N07/6290102861/in/photolist-azQqrk-5F6CB-85zGZw-5epkYf-8EFX6T-59Hg4H-9aPR5N-8fjpuN-c1QnKG-ooVJq5-4FKb6F-4FPkWj-dax83C-4huhHd-56s2hC-57R1x1-no4F5-24EyNx-FBwYq-jJCBd-7srgwa-55WpBN-eLdd7-dax6LA-n9D6R4-FBxTa-57LP9n-7AsJST-4HWJf9-4nJ6FV-55Sdp6-emu6mh-56nQre-kHMJg-5EiwWV-dPwKew-7QN1R-56nQVa-dPwJZ3-f9CY9M-5QvrRH-kHMJe-4Z2mo4-8EK9xN-741ebb-dPwJTw-4FKcjF-C7Av-5o7Z8T-9mgn4m

With all of the pessimism that has been created by the utter farces that are this year’s presidential campaigns, I feel that a more optimistic story should be shared with readers of the news. This is not an entirely happy tale, but it is a story about a man finding the will to hold onto optimism in the wake of personal tribulation.

In the early morning hours of Feb. 22, a fire destroyed the home of Payette High School’s principal Mark Heleker in Idaho. He and his wife Lorrie were saved when his 24-year-old daughter Katie had been walking the family dog after her shift at work. Fortunately, Katie Heleker noticed the fire before it became too intense and woke her parents up so they could escape safely.

Though he managed to escape with his loved ones, pets and personal possessions, Heleker still had to come to terms with the fact that he and his family were now homeless.

Shortly after the fire, the Heleker family had to relocate to a tiny hotel room in Ontario, Oregon. All of this is further complicated by the fact that their son, Brian, is supposed to come home from college this week, and there is already little space in the hotel room for three people — let alone four.

The cause of the fire is just as troubling as the fire itself. Brian Heleker, who was away at college at the time of the incident, informed his father that there were suspicious comments about the fire made by certain students on social media.

The suspicious comment that drew attention was a Snapchat post with multiple fire emoji icons and text underneath that said, “Burn B**** Burn.” Investigators followed the trail of the message and now have four students in custody: three from the high school and one from the middle school. Payette Police Chief Mark Clark stated that the students burned the house down in retaliation for some of them being suspended the week prior to the crime.

As of right now, two of the boys have been charged with first degree arson and conspiracy to commit arson, while the other two boys have only been charged with conspiracy to commit arson.

Given how these degenerates purposely and maliciously tried to endanger the lives of three innocent people out of an act of rebelliousness, one can only hope that they are not let off lightly and face severe consequences.

This is a hard situation for any family to face, but they are not going to face it alone. Relatives and friends of the Helekers have loaned vehicles to the family since all three of their cars were destroyed in the fire. The students of Payette High School have also lent a helping hand by creating a GoFundMe account for the Heleker family with a goal of raising $2,000. As of the week of March 7, over $5,000 has been raised. The students also signed and delivered a huge card to their principal, which left him deeply moved.

An avid Green Bay Packers fan since he was 4 years old, Heleker lost a large collection of Packers’ memorabilia in the fire. This led to his assistant principal, Jason Dransfield, sending a copy of the news story to the Green Bay Packers. As a result, the Packers sent Heleker a box of memorabilia and a football signed by the whole team.

More than anything, Mark and Lorrie Heleker discussed with “Inside Edition” how they will not allow the incident to make them lose their faith in students. “We’ve spent 20 years looking for the best in children,” Lorrie Heleker said. “And that’s not going to change because four of them made a really bad decision.”

So many people would have been crushed by what the Helekers had to face, but this family is willingly going to swallow the bitter pill and carry on looking for the best in people. This family’s faith in decency has already been rewarded, given the acts of generosity they have been presented with since the incident happened. Family, friends and random students have all opened their hearts and extended their hands to a bunch of people who really needed help.

Whereas people are getting into brawls at Donald Trump’s rallies over their selfish political viewpoints, a story like this shows that what ultimately matters is always trying our best to be decent to one another, no matter what the circumstances are.

In a time where political figures often conduct themselves like immature children, a man like Heleker proves that the true strength of a man lies in not how hard he can hit, but how hard he can take a hit and get back up to face the world with optimism and compassion.

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