In the year after the Marshall Fire, communities in Boulder County and beyond came together to support one another through the heartbreak and find hope among the ashes.
It was more than just neighbors helping neighbors, or friends helping friends. It became strangers comforting strangers, sharing their homes, clothing and food. It was children collecting toys to give to their classmates who lost everything just a few days after Christmas. It was local businesses and nonprofits working around the clock so displaced residents had a place to eat, rest and recover.
And Denver7 was proud to contribute to all kinds of recovery stories thanks to viewer donations to Denver7 Gives. From Dec. 31, 2021 through Sept. 15, 2022, more than 4,000 donors raised $713,820.
Below you will find some of the many stories of hope that emerged in the year since the destructive fire.
Hundreds of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the Marshall Fire last year gathered for a holiday extravaganza as the one-year anniversary of the fire approached.
Denver 7 Gives teamed up with A Precious Child and Amazon to put on the event. It provided the families an opportunity to select gifts, pick out Christmas trees and create new holiday memories.
Thanks to generous viewers who've donated to Denver7 Gives, we were able to give Gina Helart and wife, Jen Smith, $5,000 through the nonprofit, A Precious Child to help with their mortgage. Their home — an 1,800 square-foot, two bedroom, two bath house in Original Town Superior — was destroyed in the Marshall Fire.
In addition to the other needs, 150 families have reached out to A Precious Child for help with rent and mortgage payments.
A teacher who lost everything in the Marshall Fire had to start the new school year from scratch. Natascha Ambrose, a teacher at Eagle Ridge Academy in Brighton, and her family lived in the Sagamore neighborhood and escaped with a little more than the clothes on their backs.
Denver7 teamed up with Walmart in Broomfield to surprise Ambrose with a shopping spree, where she was able to pick out essential school supplies and decorations for her classroom.
Thanks to your generosity, a single mother who lost her home during the Marshall Fire will be able to move into her new temporary house while her home is being rebuilt.
She's hoping her new house in Superior will be standing around spring of next year.
Thanks to our generous Denver7 Gives Viewers and Amazon, $40,000 worth of essential items were donated to the nonprofit A Precious Child in Broomfield in April. Denver7 Give's team stocked up the nonprofit's warehouse full of clothing, shoes, toys, home goods, toiletries and much more.
During a weekend in April, about 100 families stopped by the warehouse to pick up the items during a free shopping event.
"The community has been the biggest savior," said Mary Ann Lasky, a Superior resident who was displaced after the fire.
Read our full blog about this event here.
Harold Honstein is one of the thousands of people who lost their homes and all of their belongings in the Marshall Fire. He had moved into his Superior rental home just three weeks before the fire.
Honstein, a musician, was at home at the time and said the fire approached so quickly, he only had time to grab his glasses and wallet.
Denver7 Gives took Honstein on a shopping spree at Denver's Guitar Center and replaced most everything he lost.
Denver7 Gives is committed to helping those displaced by the Marshall Fire. More than two months after the fire, dozens were still living in hotels.
Thanks to generous donations to the Denver7 Gives Wildfire Relief Fund, we gave them a taste of home on a March night.
Often forgotten behind those whose houses were destroyed, victims whose homes sustained smoke damage from the Marshall fire face enormous expenses as they too were forced to flee.
Everywhere she looks, Sophia Martin sees potential danger for her family. Her townhome is inside the Marshall Fire burn zone, but it's still standing. Her insurance company deemed it "uninhabitable."
Denver7 Gives wanted to lift some of the worries. Thanks to generous donations to our wildfire relief fund, we delivered two air purifiers that had been at the top of her wishlist.
Click here to go directly to the Denver7 Gives donation form then choose a campaign
The fourth grade girls in Girl Scout Troop 76934 just wanted to sell cookies. But when the Marshall Fire tore through Boulder County, it destroyed the homes of three members of the troop.
The girls sold as many boxes as they could to customers in Louisville, trying to reach a smaller goal in order to fund the troop’s activities for the coming year. Then Denver7 stepped in.
The stories of those who lost everything in the Marshall Fire are all different, but have a common thread. For one woman in Louisville, her loss comes after an especially tough two years of the pandemic.
“I was taking care of my patients and looked out the window and saw the big black plume of smoke," said Kim Christensen, a nurse, as she recalled the day of the fire. “I was hopeful, but I really didn't think we would have a home to come back to."
Her home burned that day. But as a result of donations in the Denver7 Gives Wildfire Relief Fund, Christensen will have her mortgage paid through the end of the year.
A tight-knit Boulder County family — the Gill and Dhanoa family — lost three homes in the Marshall Fire. They also lost four cars and had to shut down their family Indian restaurant.
With the help of our Denver7 Gives viewers, we delivered a surprise in early February: a new car to help with their transportation needs. In addition, Groove Auto delivered the car for free and gave an almost $1,500 discount on the retail price.
"(The car) represents us moving forward," said Mandip Gill. "It represents us rebuilding. Our heads are up, and it's forward now. We can't really think about what's behind us."
Lindsey McMorran is a realtor and mom by day, and superhero Facebook organizer by night. Her "Hope Lives Here Colorado" Facebook group has a simple mission: Build bedrooms for children who list everything in the Marshall Fire.
"So some of these kids have just been sleeping on a mattress on the floor," McMorrant said.
Thanks to generous donations from viewers to the Wildfire Relief Fund, Denver7 Gives is pledging $50,000 to help her build 50 children's bedrooms.
The Tarves family was on a Christmas vacation when they learned about the Marshall Fire on social media. It not only claimed their small business in Louisville, but also burned their home in Superior to the ground.
Following the fire, one of the biggest obstacles for the family was transportation. The wildfire burned three of their cars and damaged the fourth.
Denver7 Gives made some calls to Colorado Auto Finders to give the Tarves family a big surprise — a 2014 Toyota Sequoia.
Joseph and Cindy Reid moved to Louisville following their daughter, Joanna, who has had health issues most of her life. Not only was the Reid's home destroyed in the Marshall Fire, they learned they were underinsured.
So Denver7 Gives wanted to help, and took the Reids shopping to help furnish their new, temporary apartment.
The Marshall Fire destroyed Roberto and Vannessa Camacho's home one week after they closed on the house. Since then, the family says they've been overwhelmed with support from the community.
With donations from the Denver7 Gives Wildfire Relief Fund, Denver7 rented a storage unit for the Camacho family to use as long as they need it.
Denver7 Gives helped two families from different walks of life recover thanks to generous donations from Denver7 viewers. Here are the stories of Richard Daley and Eddy Miscles.
Marian Cole and her daughter Farrah started shopping for the children who lost their homes in the Marshall Fire in early January. The duo began by filling six backpacks with toys selected by Farrah.
Marian made a post on their neighborhood website, encouraging others to participate in "Farrah's Challenge" and fill a backpack. She was shocked by the outpouring of support for the idea.
Denver7 Gives took part in "Farrah's Challenge" and went shopping for toys at the Walmart in Castle Rock.
Jamie Laughner and Max Petersen were planning their wedding day for March when their worst day happened and the Marshall Fire struck. The couple’s home in Louisville was destroyed. They escaped with their two dogs, but not much else.
She sought help through a Facebook post and the community offered veils, decorations, shoes and wedding rings.
“This is one of those silver linings. The outpouring of support to help make our wedding day what we wanted it to be in the first place,” Jamie said.
And with funds raised through Denver7 Gives, the balance for Jamie’s dress alterations was taken care of (seamstress Patty Elliot is also donating the cost of bustling the dress) and the couple was given a Target gift card to pay for dishes and towels for their new apartment.
Cousins Dana Stevens Kogler and Stephanie Clark lived just a few blocks apart in the Sagamore neighborhood. Both of their families barely made it out of their homes in time before their homes burned to the ground.
"We don't have much, and so it's very devastating to just not even have any relief," Clark said. "No one's there to help you pick up the pieces."
Denver7 took the cousins shopping at Macy's to buy clothes for their sons, their husbands and themselves, plus two Macy's gift cards.
The Cullen family lost everything they owned in the Marshall Fire — their home was one of hundreds burned in Boulder County's Sagamore neighborhood.
"I ran out of the house without shoes on," said mother Kate Cullen.
Thanks to the donations of Denver7 Gives viewers, we passed out $100 Target gift cards to help meet the immediate needs of five Sagamore neighborhood families who met to grieve their loss. In addition, Denver7 Gives took the Cullen family on a shopping run to buy baby supplies for the twins, clothing and a couple of toys for their 3-year-old daughter who lost all her toys.
Community helping community
The Lockman family lost everything in the Marshall Fire. She assumed that included her boxes of photographs. But in the days after the fire, while going through the rubble, she found those boxes. The photos were badly damaged and soaked with water, but she reached out to Mike's Camera in Boulder to see if any of the pictures could be salvaged.
“I immediately told her, just bring what you have in, don't worry about anything else. We'll figure it out," said Curtis Busack, the store manager of Mike's Camera in Boulder.
A Colorado chorus debuted an original song that was dedicated to people affected by the Marshall Fire.
The Coal Creek Community Chorus performed the song, titled "The Spark," on a November evening at Ascent Community Church in Louisville.
Coloradans — even those thousands of miles away — stepped up to help those impacted by the Marshall Fire any way they could.
In July, a family finally got to thank the couple that let them stay in their summer home while they were in Florida at the time of the fire.
Almost six months after the Marshall Fire burned through more than 1,000 homes and businesses in Boulder County, the local sheriff's office honored those who saved lives and property at an awards ceremony.
"We honored the individual employees, agencies, partners, and community members who went to great lengths to save lives, both human and animal, save property where possible, and to begin the process of healing and recovery," said Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle.
Marshall Fire families have had to deal with a lot of stress and uncertainty and a free art therapy program is available for those who need it. Andrea Golod, who was impacted by a different fire years ago, helped start an art therapy program.
The sessions range in different age groups and different types of trauma. There are also therapists, like Krista Reinhardt, there to help people talk through what they're feeling.
Future Arts Foundation purchases and collects musical instruments and art supplies for teachers and families. The nonprofit collected more than 500 instruments for victims of the Marshall Fire.
"People were donating, like, $15,000 harps and $5,000 clarinets... And it's just like, that's great," said Travis Albright, who founded the organization. "We're giving these to people who are professional musicians, who lost their instruments and the insurance company isn't covering that... So that was amazing."
The Colorado community continues to rally behind friends, family and even complete strangers who were impacted by the Marshall Fire.
Adam Kucera lost what he called home. It was a bus he had converted into a place to live. It was destroyed in the fire, along with his apothecary supplies that he used to run his business, Namaste Natural.
But people in the community, who he had never met, came together to show their support.
When your world turns to ash in the blink of an eye, you can still find hope.
That’s the message that survivors of the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire northwest of Colorado Springs gave to those recently impacted by the Marshall Fire.
Santiago Saenz and his family, of Boulder County, went on a trip to Argentina in December 2021 and never imagined a wildfire would destroy their home and all of their belongings by the time they returned.
But on a weekend in February, hundreds of fire survivors, including Saenz, were able to shop for thousands of brand new items all for free at the Black Lab Sports Warehouse in Boulder. The organization teamed up with dozens of brands, businesses and organizations for “The Phoenix Project” to help families replace the items they’ve lost.
Glacier Ice Cream, which has locations in Englewood and Greenwood Village, is giving 100% of its sales this week to victims of the Marshall Fire. The fundraiser lasted until Feb. 5.
The owner, Sarah Bock, says proceeds will be donated to the Boulder County Wildfire Fund.
Louisville architect Christian Dino, who lost his home in the Marshall Fire, is determined to rebuild his neighborhood and community one home at a time.
He is the co-owner of KCI Construction, a commercial builder. In an effort to help families navigate the often muddy and pricey process of rebuilding, Dino launched a Facebook and social media campaign to help victims rebuild.
For hundreds displaced by the Marshall Fire last December, they had to live in nearby accommodations as they waited to make their next move.
One organization tried to bring some elements of home to those displaced to help them regain some semblance of the comforts that were lost in the blaze. Kate Coslett started Operation Hotel Sanity to deliver those comforts in person.
Just days after the Marshall Fire decimated the belongings of thousands, neighbors from across Commerce City came together to collect clothes, toys and money for those who lost everything.
Monica Newman helped spearhead the New Year's Eve event and community members from the Reunion and Eastpoint neighborhoods were eager to join with her.
A Facebook group of volunteers wanting to help Marshall Fire victims made an impact by compiling "wildfire wish lists."
Meryl Suissa, administrator of the Boulder Fire and Surrounding Areas Victims Distribution Page, launched the grass-roots group to find out what fire victims need and get it to them directly.
"We're giving people their items," Suissa said. "Their specific work boots for a family that needs to return to his job, kitchen items that bring them joy, one family wants all green, this woman loves green."
A Louisville local used his creative skills to raise money for the people who lost everything. Stephen Ross has lived in Louisville for the past 14 years. A musician by trade, Ross dabbles in graphic design, and decided to create a logo for Louisville after the fire.
Ross put the logo on a sticker and posted it on Facebook. He was surprised by the number of people who wanted to purchase one.
The stickers generated thousands of dollars, which Ross said was donated to the Boulder County Wildfire Fund.
In a matter of days, a group of realtors, lenders and other housing professionals managed to amass a few thousand essential items in January for the victims of the Marshall Fire.
The marketplace this weekend — founded hard by the Abbey Collection, a division of Compass Realty, and a group of realtors, lenders and others who make their living off real estate — was an opportunity to come together to give back where there is no real estate left.
“They didn’t have time to get back to their homes,” said David Williams, one of the organizers of the Marshall Fire Marketplace. “They had five minutes to evacuate. They have timeless and priceless things that they can never replace. Hopefully, in a small way, we can help out those people in need.”
A 9-year-old girl made sure that in the wake of the Marshall Fire, her peers still had a best friend to snuggle with at night.
Libby Latham, along with her parents, collected stuffed animals for children who lost theirs, and families were able to pick them up in Louisville in mid-January.
Losing a 'stuffie' would be heartbreaking for me, and I just want everybody to have their own 'stuffie' to call their own," Libby said.
In a time when many Colorado residents are sewing their lives back together after the Marshall Fire, a local organization is looking to provide some stitched-warmth as comfort.
The Arapahoe County Quilters, formed in 1986, are using their nearly four decades of experience and resources to collect and assemble quilts for the estimated 1,000 victims of the Marshall Fire.
In the days after the fire, the Humane Society of Boulder Valley saw the pain of separation between pets and their owners firsthand.
“We've taken in almost 50 animals — from either stray animals brought in by our partners with Boulder County Animal Control, City of Boulder, Broomfield Animal Control,” said Jan McHugh-Smith, CEO of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley.
“These reunifications have been so touching. People are just so grateful to have their animal back," she said. "They've lost everything, and to have your animal, your pet, with you is such a comfort for people."
Liz Cunningham is a lucky resident of Old Town Superior in the sense that her house was still standing in a neighborhood that was almost completely destroyed in the Marshall Fire. But her community, and all the homes that used to house friendly neighbors, was a victim to the fire.
To help, she gathered winter clothing from her friends, who live across the state, mountain apparel from her friends in Steamboat Springs, and wool socks from Point6, an outfitter where she works.
Another layer of devastation from the Marshall Fire came in the form of families who lost their pets in the chaos of the day.
“I don't know where I'd be without my pets," said Angela Hacker, a local veterinary technician. "I have severe depression... My cats, my dogs, they keep me going. They're the reason I get out of bed. I became a vet tech because animals have done so much for me that I wanted to give back to them somehow."
She is also an artist who does pet portraits. When she saw the destruction caused by the fires in Boulder County, she knew she had to help.
Denver7 Everyday Heroes
To create a winter wonderland for families that lost everything in the Marshall Fire takes a lot of work by a lot of different people.
Luckily for A Precious Child, they have volunteers like Bill and Anita Head. The couple has been volunteering for various groups since retiring a few years ago, but stepped up their efforts when they saw the devastation left behind by the Marshall Fire.
With many of the homes around her Superior neighborhood destroyed by the Marshall Fire, Jen Gulley knows her family is one of the lucky ones. Knowing she had a working kitchen and could cook, she decided she could help those who had lost their homes.
And so she created Meals from the Heart. Three to five times a week, Gulley makes everything from egg rolls to homemade chili. She posts what she is making early in the day on Facebook. If families need it, they let her know so she knows how much to make.
Susan Lee and Phillis Shimamoto created the Sock It To ‘Em campaign to collect hundreds of socks to give to people experiencing homelessness in Colorado. One of the biggest contributors to the campaign has been the Town of Superior
In 2021, many of the socks that were donated were given to families in Superior who lost their homes in the Marshall Fire.
“For us to be able to give socks back to them after they've given out for all these years — it's an incredible feeling,” Shimamoto said.
They ended up collecting about 6,500 pairs of socks from Greenwood Village to help impacted residents.