Kids reunited with toys lost in house fire
By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 3/3/2014
“It’s easier when you can make it like it never happened,” Jeff Moore said.
Moore, owner of B&B Professional Cleaning and Restoration, said he’s hopeful that by giving Jeff and Lori Kelley’s children their coveted stuffed animals back, he can help make the memories of the family’s recent house fire vanish.
The Kelleys’ home at 800 S. Main St., Ottawa, sustained substantial damage Wednesday night after an electrical fire broke out behind a wall on the main floor, Jeff Carner, Ottawa fire chief, said previously.
The bedrooms, all on the second floor of the home, suffered the most damage because of a partial roof collapse, Carner said. Among the family treasures that were thought lost in the fire were the children’s beloved stuffed animals and toys.
The Kelleys’ children, ages 3 to 8, lost all of their toys in the fire, Lori Kelley said, but one toy in particular was sorely missed.
“The little ones don’t understand — they keep asking about their toys and stuffed animals,” Kelley said previously. “ .. My sister bought my 4-year-old daughter a new stuffed animal because she had a special one called ‘Big Baby’ and we know it was burned up. My sister brought her a new big dog and she smiled and said ‘Look Mommy, I have a new baby, and this one isn’t on fire.’”
A frenzy broke out when Crystal Davis-Taylor, Lori Kelley’s sister, started sharing a picture of “Big Baby,” asking anyone and everyone to be on the lookout at stores for an identical version of the beloved pink dog.
“We started posting on Facebook about trying to find one exactly like [Big Baby] because we thought she’d been on the bed that had the worst damage,” Davis-Taylor said. “We thought she was gone.”
Just when the family was about to give up hope on finding a new Big Baby, Davis-Taylor said, she got a phone call from the general contractor who had been working at the house.
“I think the whole city of Ottawa was looking for one of these stuffed animals identical to Big Baby, but no one could find it,” Davis-Taylor said. “Finally, Friday afternoon we got a call from the contractor that his crew found it.”
The search for Big Baby must’ve been well-known, Moore said, because cheers broke out from onlookers across the street when he held the giant pink dog up to inspect it.
“All of a sudden, there were people across the street outside at the state farm office, and they were out there yelling ‘They found Big Baby!’” Moore said.
Moore told the family he would take as many of the stuffed animals and toys as possible and clean and restore them for free to give back to the children.
In addition to sprucing up Big Baby, Moore was able to restore stuffed animals and toys for the other children, as well as some of the Kelley family’s photographs and other family mementos, he said.
The toys were ready Monday evening and were given back to the children as a surprise, Moore said.
“It’s one of those funny things you get to do to help people out,” Moore said. “Hopefully when [the kids] look back, this is what they’ll remember instead of all the parts that sucked.”