Grateful for a great friend, community after fire

By Darren Lum
Sheena Boakes and her father of Cardiff need your help after being left with nothing but the clothes on their backs following a fire that consumed the house they were living in up until Jan. 31.
Boakes, a Grade 12 student at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School (HHSS), said she had just come into the house from shovelling a path to the propane tank to help with the expected delivery of fuel when she noticed the fire.
“The truck was gonna come by and refill it and I was wearing two pairs of sweatpants, a couple pairs of socks and two shirts and two sweaters, so that I would be warm while shovelling and I took off one of the pairs of sweaters because I had to use the washroom and then the house set on fire,” she said. “So pretty much what I had on was a sweater, two pairs of shirts, two pairs of pants and that was pretty much it. That’s what I had.”

She said because she left her shoes by the front door where the fire was, she was left with only open-toed sandals to leave the house in. A GoFundMe ( was started to help with the purchase of clothes, food and essentials, and put to housing.
HHSS principal Chris Boulay said an application was successful to receive a “sizable donation” from the Trillium Lakeland District School Board’s Feed All Four Fund. The fund will help with necessities for the student.
“A number of students and staff have brainstormed ideas on how we can help as a school community and this work will take place imminently,” he said in a prepared statement.
In the rush to escape the fire, Sheena didn’t know what happened to her two cats, Honey and Fluffy.

Although she was told not to go back to the house after they left, she needed to know where her pets were.
“I couldn’t leave it be. I needed to find them to know that they were OK and it was good that we did because Honey, my black tabby was stuck in the basement the whole time during the fire and was locked in my living room in the basement and couldn’t get out and she was completely freaking out and Fluffy my younger kitten, who is an orange cat was upstairs and covered in ash,” she said.
Since rescuing her cats, they’ve been closely monitored and kept in a crate to help with their recovery from trauma of the experience of living through a fire, Sheena said.
“I’m very thankful they weren’t hurt,” she said.
She said firefighters managed to save her father’s tablet and wallet, but nothing else of his could be salvaged from the house damaged by the fire and the ensuing water damage to his clothing, which was in the lower portion of the house.

She’s grateful to the people who have donated to her already, which has been in the form of clothes.
“I am extremely thankful to them and I don’t know how I will ever ever repay them or thank them enough because it’s been so traumatic for me, and just knowing that there are people who care and who are helping. Just it it reaches a deep place in my heart,” she said.
While she is grateful for what she has received, which includes shirts and pants, she still needs more socks, sweaters, coats and footwear. Also, hygienic products such as shampoo, body wash, hair combs, lip balm. Her father hasn’t received as much as her and she hopes he can receive some donations.
The senior high school student is appreciative of her best friend Jocelyn Winter and her family, who have opened up their home to her since the night of the fire.
“She’s been my best friend for a while and for as long as I’ve known her she would do anything for the people she loves. She’s really good like that. And I’m just really appreciative of her and her family for, you know, letting me stay here for when I needed it,” she said.

The Wilberforce Elementary School graduates have been friends for several years. Jocelyn has been there for emotional support and was the first person to come to her the night of the fire.
“I was having such a bad panic attack and she was the first person I called and she was there within seconds … she pretty much almost was tripping up and down her stairs trying to get out [of her house] and her dad rushed over and she was there pretty fast to help,” she said.
Her father is living with friends across the road from the house they rented. Being able to live with her friend Jocelyn down the road, out of sight of what remains of her home has helped her.
“I for one don’t think I could look at the house longer than, you know, five minutes at a time because it hurts,” she said.
In addition to the GoFundMe option to help, reach out to the senior high school student at or at 905-518-0525.