No kid should be left withoutThe joyous anticipation of Christmas for some Burnsville children quickly turned into devastation a year ago when their homes were engulfed by flames and smoke as an apartment complex was left in ruins.
By: John Kline, Lakeville, Minn., The Republican Eagle
The joyous anticipation of Christmas for some Burnsville children quickly turned into devastation a year ago when their homes were engulfed by flames and smoke as an apartment complex was left in ruins.
The memories of tragedy striking just three days before Christmas are vivid for those south metro Minnesota victims. Thankfully, no lives were lost and no one was injured.
But nearly 200 residents were left homeless due to an electrical fire that destroyed their homes in the Burncliff apartment complex. More than 120 police and rescue workers including fire fighters from the Burnsville, Apple Valley, Bloomington, Eagan, Lakeville, and Savage fire departments battled both fire and ice in subzero temperatures that night.
One resident had planned to stop at home and gather gifts to go celebrate Christmas with his four children nearby.
A local newspaper reported: With tears in his eyes, he watched as smoke filled his second-floor apartment while the apartment above it was consumed by flames. “It’s all gone,” the man said. “Now I don’t have anything to give my children.”
For Gunnery Sgt. Booker Maxwell, a 16-year Marine, it was time to mobilize.
Maxwell, a Burnsville resident who has served three tours in Iraq, is the local Toys for Tots coordinator and helps run the Toys for Tots warehouse in Mendota Heights. He had closed the warehouse earlier in the evening but upon learning of the fire, he returned to where he and other Marines had been packing and shipping toys of all colors, shapes, and sizes for the seasonal Toys for Tots campaign.
“I called some of the other guys and we went back to the warehouse,” Maxwell said. “We called the Toys for Tots Foundation (in Quantico, Va.) to see if we could send some of the toys to those kids in Burnsville who lost their homes to the fire. What kid wants to wake up with an empty Christmas tree?”
Quantico returned their call at 8 a.m. the next morning.
“They told us, ‘By all means make it happen,’ “ said Maxwell, who 30 minutes after receiving the call had a truck en route to Burnsville loaded with 3,000 toys, games, puzzles, books, stuffed animals, stocking stuffers, and even a Christmas tree.
If you ask the Burnsville kids, that truck could have just as well been Santa’s reindeer sleigh.
“Our biggest fear was that we wouldn’t get approval before Christmas,” Maxwell said. “We were very concerned because of the timing of the fire. We were very concerned those kids weren’t going to have a Christmas. No kid should be left behind, and no kid should be left without.
“As Marines, we help people around the world all the time. We proudly serve our country 365 days a year and we felt we should do what we can to help our kids here at home, too. Those kids were looking forward to Christmas. It felt really good to help children in our own back yard.”
My wife, Vicky, and I have long supported the Toys for Tots program. As a 25-year Marine Corps veteran, I am drawn to this great tradition begun by a Marine. In addition, as the father of two and grandfather of four, I have become quite well versed on the latest toys.
Last year, Marines distributed toys to more than 7.6 million children nationwide. This year, Sgt. Maxwell reports that more kids are going without. Toys for Tots needs your help more than ever to achieve their goal of delivering a toy to every child in need.
If you would like to join me in supporting the Toys for Tots effort, please bring your unwrapped toys to one of numerous drop-off sites in the 2nd District. To find drop-off sites near you, please visit the Toys for Tots Web site at:
Please do what you can to make someone else’s Christmas memorable.
“I know in my heart they were very ecstatic and happy,” Maxwell said of the kids who received toys after their Burncliff homes were destroyed. “I knew in my mind and was assured that they would have Christmas.”
John Kline, R-Minnesota, can be reached at (952) 808-1213 or http://kline.house.gov