In a matter of days, Kim DeMeo and her family were overwhelmed in a bad way and then in a good way.
The family was stunned the night of March 30 when their Glen Ellyn ranch home was gutted by a fire that officials say started in the basement family room.
The whole family – Lou, Kim and their sons Joe, Nick and Louie – was at Top Golf when the fire started. They were celebrating the 15th birthday of twins Joe and Nick with a bunch of friends and relatives.
“Last year, with COVID-19, they didn’t get to do anything [for their birthday],” Kim said.
“It was a Tuesday night during spring break. It was great there. And then Joey got a text message from our neighbor across the street because he mows her lawn.”
The neighbor asked if they were OK “because your house is on fire,” Joe said.
“That is how we found out,” Kim said. “I called her right away. ‘What’s going on? How bad is it?’ She said, ‘You need to come home now.’ ”
They rushed home to find firefighters from eight trucks battling a blaze in the house that Kim, 41, and Lou, 44, moved into when they married 17 years ago.
“I was in shock, absolute shock,” Kim said.
“Everything is lost,” Kim said during an interview April 19 in the kitchen of the Lombard home of her mother-in-law, Natalie DeMeo.
Until their house is repaired, the family is living in Lou’s childhood home. As Kim jokingly told Natalie, “You’ve gone from calm to chaos.”
Among the few possessions spared were a pet turtle named Boris, a White Sox painting and whatever was stored in the garage such as Joe’s baseball gear.
Childhood toys, photo albums, beloved mementos, clothing, furniture, everything else is gone.
A spark from a power strip started the fire that spread to a TV and caused that to explode in the family room and flames soon spread, officials told the family.
“They said it was a freak accident. One in 4,000. They told us this is how recalls happen,” Kim said.
The family has been told their house may not be ready for occupancy until 2022.
To make things worse, the DeMeo family lost two pets, a cat named Rocky and a dog named Rosie. Rocky favored Nick, Kim said, while Joe was clearly Rosie’s favorite human.
Yes, things are bleak, but there is hope. Lots of hope.
As of April 19, two GoFundMe pages started by friends have raised more than $38,000 for the DeMeo family.
A now-closed fund raised $26,000, Kim said.
The active fund was at $12,525. Donations range from $5 to $2,000.
“I’m so humbled beyond belief and mind blown at how much support everyone has given,” Kim said. “All of the donations. The clothes. Anything we need. Food.”'
“It’s crazy,” Nick added.
Nick and Joe are eighth graders at Glen Crest Middle School. Louie, 10, is a fourth grader at Arbor View Elementary School. The schools are in Glen Ellyn.
They rely on rides from their mother to get to and from school each day. Between chauffeur duties, Kim works with Lou at his family’s HVAC business, Any Temperature, which is based in Carol Stream.
Kim’s time often is spent talking with State Farm Insurance, contractors and restoration experts. The house has to be gutted to the studs and completely rebuilt.
“Everybody’s been great,” she said. “We have been taken very good care of so far. I don’t want to jinx it.”
Kim sometimes shudders to think what could have happened had the family been home – perhaps fast asleep – when the fire began.
“That’s been like a bad movie [playing in my head],” she said.
“But we are just so humbled, so grateful and so thankful. I feel like ‘thank you’ doesn’t even begin to express our gratitude toward people.”
That includes donations, recruited by her mother, Eileen Martyn, from parishioners at St. Matthew Church in Glendale Heights.
“The kindness of strangers, it’s amazing,” Kim said. “I wish I could help everyone the way people have helped us.”