MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Florida City family who lost just about everything during a devastating house fire received food and a $500 gift card on Tuesday.
The Mitchell family, Samantha ‘Kickball Mom’, her husband Leon and their six children, run a nightly kickball game to keep the neighborhood kids stay out of trouble.
Despite their personal tragedy, they have kept the games going, despite not having a “home base.” As they shopped at a Walmart in Florida City on Tuesday with a donated $500 gift card, the kids were reluctant to buy anything. Brown cheered the kids on “You all on TV. Pick up something!”
Instead, the family loaded the shopping cart with kick balls, bases, and a basketball hoop. Choosing the needs of their neighborhood game, over themselves.
The community has been stepping up to the plate to help the Mitchell family get back on their feet, but Samantha and her kids are only thinking about helping the community children.
Tuesday morning the staff at the Walmart gathered around the front of the store. They applauded as the Mitchell family came through the doors.
Store manager Juan Pinillos stepped forward and told the family, “We want you guys to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Today, we are going to give a donation of food and we want to give you guys a $500 gift card so you guys can start on rebuilding your future.”
The kids smiled as their father, Leon expressed his gratitude, “I really appreciate all of you guys. It is really important to us.”
This moment at Walmart was a long way from where the family was last week.
When CBS4 arrived at the house, the six Mitchell children were dumping everything they owned on the curb.
Leon was using a shovel to scoop up the charred remains of what was his bedroom.
It is believed the fire started in the bedroom from one of the kids’ hoverboards that had been charging.
Florida City officer Richard Brown was the first one to respond as the family escaped the flames. The experience shook him. “Right down to my own core. I have my own family at home. We have hoverboards at home too and that touch me in a lot of ways – you can imagine,” he said.
Officer Brown started raising money immediately, asking area businesses to chip in.
Pinillos agreed immediately.
“This family may be shopping here every week, but now is our time to put that money back on them and give them a better future for these kids.”
He was touched when he finally got to meet them Tuesday and put a smile on their faces.
“I have kids. I understand what is a difficult moment. That’s how the company trained us. The company trained us that we need to support them. We need to support and that’s why we did,” Pinillos said.
Samantha was touched by the outpouring of support by the community.
People she has never met have stepped up to help. Even at a family breakfast over the weekend people came over to them offer support. “I just thank God and I want to thank everyone that has been supporting us and helping us,” she said.
The Mitchell’s children are very aware of the support as well. “I appreciate what they have been doing for us. Hopefully, we will get back in our house.” Cedric Mitchell told CBS4.
Cedric, the oldest of the six children, turned 13 Tuesday. Upon learning that, Walmart stepped up with a brand new bike. “You are going to start your birthday better!” Pinillos said as he presented it. Cedric smiled wide. It was certainly a great surprise.
What Officer Brown or even Walmart didn’t know is exactly who they were helping out.
The Mitchells have spent years running a neighborhood kickball game.
Six days a week, right after work they play, in an effort to keep kids out of trouble.
Leon Mitchell, the father, explained why he and his wife started KICKS (Keeping Inner-City Kids Safe).
“It’s very important to us. Because it stops gun violence. It stops some of the kids that are using drugs. It changed their lives. So there is somebody in the neighborhood that is positive. You have to do that for the community. And I feel that is great for the community.”
Officer Brown was taken back when he learned about the program.
“I didn’t even know about it. It’s amazing the fire brought us together. And the fire exposed the type of things these people are doing in the community.”
The Mitchell’s are currently living in a hotel. It is unclear how long it will take to get their home back together. In the meantime, kickball games continue every day after school.
If you would like to help, the Mitchell family, call Neighbors4Neighbors at 305-597-4404 or go to their website, Neighbors4Neighbors.org.