North Carolina, January, 2011 - If your house is on fire, what would you grab on your way out? Jewelry? Scrapbooks? Irreplaceable family photos?
For Skyler Hill, a third grader in Raleigh, N.C., the choice was easy. It was her favorite 45-year-old blanket, a family heirloom.
When the family's house burned last summer, Skyler wrote about the experience for a class assignment. You know the one students write every year upon returning to class in the fall - reiterating what you did on your summer vacation.
Only Skyler's “My Summer Adventure” was not your typical elementary school story. Instead, it is a rare look at one of our youngest customer's thoughts as she watches her family's house burn.
The budding young writer recently won first place in a competition at her school, Forestville Road Elementary School, for her story. She also won first place in a county-wide competition.
Mark Coffey, a Fire claim representative in the Raleigh Operations Center, is handling the claim for Skyler and her parents, Robert and Dianne Hill.
Mrs. Hill's mother, Corliss “Corky” Hizinski, works for Lance Jenison, an agent in Valley City, North Dakota (where it's a balmy -29 degrees this week).
“Dianne teaches life skills to a young man with Down's Syndrome, and Robert coaches basketball for a special population. Skyler's his unofficial assistant,” said the proud mother and grandmother. “The family won an award from the City of Raleigh for the amount of volunteer work they do for the special population.”
The family is insured through State Farm® Agent Mary Wilson's office in Raleigh.
Mark said he learned about Skyler's award-winning story from Corky.
“The Hills are now back in their home,” Mark said. “When I met Skyler, she told me she loved the pool at the apartment. She's a very cute little girl. I'm glad she got her blanket out of the house. Corky said the baby blanket belonged to Skyler's father.”
In the field, Mark said claim reps see devastation first-hand every day.
“Some people may think that we get desensitized, but it's far from that. Each person touches our lives in a different way. Thankfully the Hills were not hurt in the fire. That's the most important thing.”
Following is Skyler's story:
“My Summer Adventure”
By Skyler Hill
On June 21, 2010, my neighbor Pete called us at our shop to tell us that our house was on fire. My dad, mom and I rushed home. On the way, we could see black smoke rising into the sky. When we got home, there were several fire trucks and one ambulance there. A lot of our neighbors were there as well wondering what happened. My dad went up to a fireman and commanded him to go in the house and look for my favorite 45-year-old blanket. It was safe!
My neighbor, Ms. Louise, was kind enough to wash it for me because it smelled like smoke. While the firemen were still there, our insurance agent was there and gave us a check to buy food and clothing to get us through the next few weeks. She also made us a reservation at the Holiday Inn Express.
The next day, we met Ms. Dee and her crew from Cary Reconstruction. They helped us go through all our stuff and cleaned everything that could be saved. We cried a lot that day. That night we moved to the Courtyard Marriot and stayed there for 10 days.
On July 1, 2010, we moved into an apartment at Manor Six Forks. It was fantastic! They had a swimming pool, pool table, gym, theater room and much more. One night while we were sleeping, a fire alarm went off at 3:05 am. We had to be outside until 3:45 am. That scared me so much that I didn't want to go to sleep at night so, I have been doing a lot of praying.
On Oct. 23, we spent the first night back in our home. My house is fantastic! It feels great to be back in my own house again.