Tuckahoe fifth graders raise money for coach whose home was damaged in fire

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After learning that their cheerleading coach’s house was severely damaged in a fire in March, a group of fifth-graders at the Tuckahoe School rallied to help with a recent bake sale.

“She was so nice to us,” 11-year-old Alexis Rosko said of Aimee White, ?the head of the Tigerettes Parade and Competition Team at Tuckahoe. “And all of us, at one point, were in cheerleading.”

So Alexis and classmates Jennie Codis, Miriam Carranza, Angel Platt, Delaney Jones, Daisy Ruales and Angelaina Greinke decided to organize a bake sale to raise money to help Ms. White and her family get back on their feet.

“They came over my house and we did a lot of baking,” 10-year-old Angel said.

On April 7 and 8, the girls sold their homemade brownies, cupcakes, muffins and cake in the school cafeteria and raised about $500.

“It made me feel proud that we were helping,” said Angelaina, 11.

Daisy, 12, said she wanted to help because she knows how it feels to lose a home. When she was very young and living in Ecuador, she said, her house burned down and people died.

With a big banner in tow, the girls presented Ms. White with the money after school on Thursday, May 1.

“They put a smile on my face that hasn’t been there in a while,” Ms. White said.

Ms. White and her husband, Steven, and their children, 8-year-old twins Brandon and Alexa and 4-year-old Amanda, lost most of their possessions in the fire. Firefighters from almost a half-dozen departments responded to the blaze at the Whites’ two-story home on South Phillips Avenue in Speonk on March 25.

An Eastport Fire Department firefighter was injured while battling the blaze, which started at around 10:45 a.m.

No one was inside the house at the time the fire started, but Ms. White discovered it when she got home and opened a door from the garage to the house. She told firefighters at the scene that she faced a “brick wall of smoke” and immediately called 911.

Fire officials suspected the blaze started in the basement and spread to the first floor, causing extensive damage there—so much so that a portion of the floor collapsed into the basement, according to Southampton Town Fire Marshal John Rankin. “I estimated the damage to be between $100,000 and $250,000,” Mr. Rankin said.

Southampton Town Chief Fire Marshal Cheryl Kraft said this week that heat generated by a dryer vent in the basement caused flames to ignite on some nearby material.

Ms. White said it will probably be nine months to a year before they family can return to their home. In the meantime, they’re living in a rental.

“Everyone in the community has been absolutely amazing,” Ms. White added. Besides the bake sale proceeds, the family has received gift cards, clothes, toys and necessities, not only from the Tuckahoe community, but from the Remsenburg-Speonk Elementary School community as well. The White children attend Remsenburg-Speonk and Ms. White serves on the School Board there. She said the school has been overwhelmingly supportive and the school psychologist is also helping her children cope.

“They lost all of their things, and it’s been extremely tough for them,” she said.

With everyone’s generosity, Ms. White said she has many people still to thank: “I’ve been working on thank-you cards for the last five weeks.”

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