Marengo fundraiser to benefit coach whose house was destroyed in blast

Amid a probe of what caused last week's fiery gas explosion in Marengo, the community is continuing to organize relief efforts for the families whose homes were damaged or destroyed.

More than a week after the June 11 blast left 19 homes uninhabitable, most, if not all, displaced families have found temporary housing, Fire Chief Bob Bradbury said. Debris previously strewed throughout the neighborhood has been cleared, broken windows have been boarded up, and community members have donated their time, money and services to help residents start rebuilding.

Still, several properties in the 500 block of 7th Circle — the epicenter of the blast — remain fenced off as authorities investigate the cause, Bradbury said Tuesday. A thorough evaluation of the scene has begun, but it could be months before a final determination is made, he said.

Meanwhile, Marengo Community High School is hosting a benefit wrestling tournament Sunday to raise money for varsity wrestling coach Tim Keefer and his family, who lost their home and all their belongings in the explosion.

Wrestlers of all age groups can compete in the event, which costs $25 for participants and $5 for spectators. Weigh-ins will take place from 6:30 to 8 a.m., and the tournament begins at 9 a.m.

Keefer, who has been the wrestling coach for 17 years, was in the living room talking to his 19-year-old son, Austin, when their next-door neighbor's house exploded. They were both able to make it out with only minor burns, and neighbors helped Keefer's wife and daughter safely climb down from the second floor.

In addition to the McHenry County wrestling community, assistant coach Chad Miller said the fundraiser has gained interest from teams throughout Illinois, as well as some from out of state. Hundreds of wrestlers are expected to participate.

“The support has been pretty unreal,” Miller said. “(Keefer) has given a lot to the wrestling community. It's nice to see the wrestling community has turned around to help him out.”

Though all tournament proceeds go to the Keefer family, he added, donations for a general explosion relief fund will also be collected at the event.

Additionally, the M.O.R.E Center and Marengo First Assembly of God are still collecting money and gift cards to help all families affected, and various online fundraisers have been set up for some residents whose homes were destroyed. Community members have also begun organizing and seeking volunteers for a “Marengo Strong” event scheduled July 22.

“I'm not really shocked that everyone came together like they did,” said Miller, a lifelong resident of the area. “It seems like whenever somebody's down in Marengo, the town rallies around them and picks them up.”

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  More than a week after a Marengo house explosion, properties in the 500 block of 7th Circle remain fenced off as authorities investigate the cause of the blast. Mark Welsh/
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