ROYERSFORD, Pa. (WTXF) - Eating pancakes at an Applebee's on a Saturday morning has never meant more to this Montgomery County community.
The Lukens family of Schwenksville, Pa. lost everything in a fire Wednesday morning, including two of its three children — 11-year-old Bryan Jr., nicknamed LJ, and 6-year-old Parker.
“They are the nicest family in the world,” Ryan McNeill told FOX 29, adding that the smiles on their faces are infectious.
The family's pets were also killed in the fire, which authorities announced was caused by an electrical failure of an extension cord that was plugged into a space heater.
McNeill is the president of the Central Perk Youth Association (CPYA). The boys who passed away both played in the league. Bryan Sr., the boys’ father, coached.
“I was really sad when I heard when it happened,” 9-year-old Luke Tuturice told FOX 29. “So we just wanted to come here raise some money for them so they have a better life.”
McNeill says the organization's Applebee's fundraiser had been planned for months, but after the fire they decided that 100 percent of the proceeds would benefit this CPYA family.
“This really will test you,” McNeill said. “If you understand the spirit of the season, this is not about Santa, it's about giving anything you can. Not material gifts – support, love and affection for this family.”
“I couldn't even guesstimate how many people were here today,” Schwenksville resident Stephanie Glover explained. Over 300 participants registered, but the event saw a steady stream of walk-ins.
Touched by the support, Rickey Gilbert, the general manager of the Royersford Applebee's and a father of four, decided to supply the food, event space and labor for free.
“It was the right thing to do,” Gilbert said.
“I've never felt such a sense of community where we live,” Glover said. “I knew we lived in a great place. This has just really showed how wonderful our community is.”
The fundraiser collected a total of $7,700, adding to the over $300,000 raised through a GoFundMe for the Lukens family.
The community is rallying around a Schwenksville family after a devastating fire tore through a sheriff deputy's home, killing his two young sons. https://t.co/WKaBLUZOFL— FOX 29 (@FOX29philly) December 13, 2017