Faith community rallies to help family that lost 2 young kids in tragic fire

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CHICAGO -- We often hear that the reach of God’s hand extends beyond the walls of the church, and Saturday it reached Rachel Franklin, whose family was thrust into the spotlight through tragedy two weeks ago.

A fire at a home at 66th and South Champlain killed her great-nieces, 2-year-old Samari and 7-month-old Ziya. The girls’ mother, Zakkiya suffered burns and smoke inhalation, as did Zakkiya’s mom. 6-year-old Donald, asleep in a front room, was burned on over 75 percent of his body.

"He’s a strong little boy. I think he went through 6 surgeries already, skin graft... but he’s doing great," Franklin said.

It wasn’t until recently that Zakkiya learned that her two little girls died in the fire. She’s still in the hospital, intubated and unable to speak. Franklin said the mother was working two jobs to support her family.

"You know, they were her life," Franklin said.

The story touched the hearts of many just two blocks away, where Rev. Leonard Smith wanted to do something, even though the family members aren’t members of his Vernon Baptist Church.

"Well, you know, they’re a member of our community. And in the grand scheme of things, they are a member of our church," Rev. Smith said.

"It’s a blessing to me. I’m not even involved in the church but for them to reach out to me to help them, it’s a blessing," Franklin said.

Next Saturday afternoon, Vernon Baptist will host a city-wide fundraiser for burial costs, ongoing medical expenses and to get the family back on their feet.

For Franklin, seeing a church stepping up is a sign leading them onto a new path, with a community coming together to help some of their own.

"God led them to us," Franklin said. "It’s going to be hard. I guess we’re just going to have to do it day by day, everybody’s going to have to pitch in," Franklin said.

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The fundraiser will be held next Saturday, March 18th 2-6pm, at Vernon Baptist Church at 6400 S. Champlain.

A GoFundMe campaign has also been set up to help the family