A young family whose home was destroyed by fire before Christmas has been overwhelmed by the generosity that has so far raised more than £12,000 in donations.
Three days shy of celebrating their first Christmas in the new home they moved into just weeks ago, Andrew Peden (27), his wife Rebecca and two-year-old daughter Daisy watched everything they owned go up in smoke.
Hailed a hero after snatching his family from their burning home, Andrew was forced to flee the house at Rathfriland’s Kiltarriff Drive with his wife and daughter after fire spread from a neighbouring recycling plant last Monday morning, December 21.
As police set about investigating suspected arson, family, friends and the wider communities in Rathfriland and Andrew’s native Donaghcloney began donating presents, toys and clothes, while a ‘Just Giving’ page set up by Donaghcloney Councillor Mark Baxter and his colleague Councillor Carla Lockhart had by time of going to press raised £12,310.
Meanwhile, ten of Andrew’s friends spent Christmas gutting, cleaning and painting the family’s house, while a local company pitched in with carpet and blinds.
The Pedens are currently living with Rebecca’s grandparents Yvonne and Bill Watts in Rathfriland, where they also spent Christmas Day.
“I know what happened to us was terrible but the generosity of people has really restored my faith in humanity,” said Andrew.
“We received donations from families who have nothing. Some told us they had already bought extra presents for their children and said they had already too much. I would just like to thank them; we are eternally grateful.
“We lost a lot of sentimental things, like the first lock of the child’s hair, Rebecca’s wedding dress, our wedding album and first anniversary presents, but we have to be positive, It could have been a lot worse; there could have been three empty chairs at the dinner table this Christmas.
“I just can’t believe over £12,000 has been raised. I know people have enough to be doing at Christmas time so to hear of how people are helping us at this time, I am speechless.”
Andrew’s parents Geoffrey and Sandra Peden, from Donaghcloney, said everyone was just glad no-one had been killed.
“We just thank the Lord it wasn’t funerals we had to go to on Christmas Day,” said Geoffrey, while Sandra was emphatic that her son was a hero for what he did for his family.
Wakened in the early hours of the morning by a neighbour’s frantic knocking, Andrew saw the fire engulfing the house and rushed back in to get Rebecca and Daisy out, cradling his daughter tight to his chest in an effort to spare her the same fumes for which he himself was later treated in hospital, having first passed out in a neighbour’s house.
“We’re so proud of what Andrew did,” said Geoffrey, who added his own and Sandra’s thanks for people’s generosity.
If you would like to donate to the Just Giving appeal for the Peden family log onto https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/mark-baxter.