Carlee Martino didn't have much time to react when she woke up from a nap to the sound of her mother screaming that their West Chicago house was on fire. Just moments later, Martino stood outside with her mother, father, three brothers and four family pets to watch the smoke and flames consume all their belongings.
But it wasn't so much her clothes, computer and furnishings that Martino mourned after Thursday afternoon's fire. It was the loss off her school supplies. Martino is in her second semester at Elgin Community College's nursing program. It costs about $1,000 in books and supplies each semester to get through the program. That doesn't factor in the cost of tuition and getting to and from school.
That's where Brittany Von Eyser is hoping to help. Von Eyser is one of Martino's classmates in the program. Shortly after learning about Martino's needs, she began an online fundraiser to help her friend get enough money to replace her nursing supplies and obtain some basic clothes to get to school.
"Carlee called me about an hour after the fire started," Von Eyser said. "It was amazing that she wasn't concerned about anything else other than how she was going to stay in school."
Von Eyser plans to give Carlee copies of her school notes and a ride to and from school. She said she is doing it because Carlee is a good friend and the Martino family was very supportive of Von Eyser when her mother-in-law died in January.
"Carlee's mother is a saint, and that family was there for me when I needed it," Von Eyser said. "Now I have an opportunity to pay it back."
In addition to the online fundraiser, Von Eyser has been trying to rally classmates and staff in the nursing program to help Carlee and the Martino family get back on their feet. So far, they've raised about $425.
"Right now, we're on spring break and she doesn't need her school supplies just yet," Von Eyser said. "But we start back on Monday so I'm hoping to raise enough to get her the basics. The ECC nursing program is all pulling for her, and we're going to do everything we can to get her and family what they need."
Anyone looking to help Carlee and the Martino family can do so online at: www.youcaring.com/tuition-fundraiser/carlee-s-nursing-school-books-and-essentials/50245.
Neighbor Dawn Klott also has spearheaded a drive in West Chicago to help the family. Anyone wishing to make a donation to that effort should call Klott at (630) 513-5304 or Bonnie at (630) 584-5093.
A cause for the fire has not yet been determined. Von Eyser said the Martino family are staying at a grandfather's home in Bloomingdale while the fire is investigated. No one was seriously injured in the fire but the residence is considered a total loss.