Giana Hoddinott, center, is surrounded by her third-grade classmates wearing Baltimore Ravens colors for $1 dress-down Friday at Annunciation BVM School in
Giana Hoddinott, center, is surrounded by her third-grade classmates wearing Baltimore Ravens colors for $1 dress-down Friday at Annunciation BVM School in McSherrystown. (THE EVENING SUN TYLER SIZEMORE)

Imagine being 8 years old on Christmas morning.

You wake up to brand new toys and clothes that Santa left under the tree. The excitement of the day is overwhelming.

Now imagine being 8 years old, and losing everything in a house fire nearly two weeks after the holidays.

That happened to 8-year-old Giana Hoddinott and her family Jan. 5, after an suspected wiring problem in the bathroom wall left their Littlestown home a complete loss.

"Everyone is coping well with the situation," said Angela Hoddinott, Giana's mother. "We're lucky to be able to stay with my in-laws during this time. I'd say the biggest grievance right now is the loss of our pets."

But, Lucky, a cat, and Jack, a dog, died in the fire, and they were a big part of the family, Hoddinott said. The family lost most of its other possessions, as well, including trophies, pictures, medals and diplomas.

"You name it, it's gone," Hoddinott said.

But every now and then, a light shines through the tragedy.

Giana had no idea what was in store for her Friday when she arrived at school.

As a third-grader at Annunciation Blessed Virgin Mary School in McSherrystown, she was just getting ready to go to lunch with the rest of her classmates.

But before lunch dismissal, students in Kim Lamur's class had a surprise waiting. Because of the recent fire at Hoddinotts' home, the students decided to surprise Giana by giving her "Christmas" presents to take home in an effort to help replace what was lost.

"I feel really good about it," Giana said.


Advertisement

"I'm glad they are helping us. I thank them for all of their support."

As an added surprise, the school collected donations through three dress-down Fridays. To honor the Hoddinotts' favorite team, the Baltimore Ravens, students were given a chance to donate a $1 to wear black and purple, or their favorite Ravens clothing.

"It was so nice to see the kids put aside their football rivalries to dress in black and purple," said Christy Lucas, Annunciation BVM principal. "There is a strong sense of community here."

In all, $2,250.25 was raised for the family, far exceeding the expected $600.

"This is so unbelievable," said Angela Hoddinott said through tears. "All the love and support has definitely been getting us through this. It's all very overwhelming."

Hoddinott said she's been able to take her mind off of the catastrophe by spending time at the school, where she works running the cafeteria and volunteers as athletic director and a member on several committees.

She said the Hoddinotts are extremely thankful for all the help they have received, and continue to heal while putting their lives back in order.

"It's amazing how people come together during a tragedy," she said.

Annunciation BVM School third-grade teacher Kim Lamur, left, presents Giana Hoddinott, of Littlestown, with gifts her fellow classmates donated to her
Annunciation BVM School third-grade teacher Kim Lamur, left, presents Giana Hoddinott, of Littlestown, with gifts her fellow classmates donated to her after her family lost their house in a fire Jan. 5. (THE EVENING SUN TYLER SIZEMORE)
"The goodness shines as bright as the day. I'm truly blessed."

As the days go on, the family still faces a few daily difficulties.

"It's going to be a huge sadness to see the house get knocked down," Angela said. "It's hard to cope with the loss of our pets. There's also the challenge of closing a chapter, watching it disappear and starting a new one. That house was more than a house - it was our home."

Despite the challenges the fire has caused for Giana and her family, one evident hurdle remains - making sure the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.

Giana definitely thinks the Ravens will win.