Family recovers, receives community support after fire
Fundraiser dinner will be hosted this weekend
April 7, 2022
It's been just over two months since the Wadsworth family's lives changed forever. When their home in Jamestown caught fire early the morning of Feb. 1, a stranger passing by helped saved their lives. Since then, the whole community has helped the family on the beginning of their journey toward healing and recovery.
This Saturday, the community has another chance to show support during the Wadsworth Family Benefit Dinner and Auction. The benefit was also put together to give the Wadsworth family members a chance to be with and personally thank the people who are supporting them.
"Within two or three days of the fire, I had a huge outpouring of friends wanting to help," Jennifer Barrett said. Barrett is the sister of Matthew Wadsworth, the husband and father of the family.
One of the first steps to help support the family was the creation of a Facebook group named "Wadsworth Family Fundraiser." The group not only provided a forum for community members to organize donations, but also became a platform for Matthew to give updates on the family's recovery.
When their house caught fire, three of the Wadsworth children were able to make it safely outside. However, youngest son Weston and mother Stephanie were stuck inside before being rescued by Ryan Pasborg, the stranger who stopped when he saw the flames. They were both taken by ambulance to Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County, then Stephanie was life-flighted to Salt Lake City. Weston suffered burns to his right hand and both feet, while Stephanie had severe burns all over her body. Matthew has been posting updates on the family since Feb. 3, when Stephanie, who was intubated, began the process of having surgeries and skin grafts. While Stephanie had multiple surgeries for her burns, Weston only had to go through one surgery for a skin graft on his leg.
Matthew's Facebook posts included videos of Weston singing and dancing in his hospital bed and riding a tricycle through the hospital hallways. Two weeks ago, Matthew shared the video everyone was waiting for - Stephanie leaving the hospital, walking down a hallway of nurses cheering, waving light sticks, blowing bubbles and shouting "We love you!"
Currently Weston is doing well, getting around great and down to minimal bandages, according to Barrett.
"He's bouncing back really good, and happy, keeping everybody moving and on their toes," she said.
Stephanie is adapting to being out of the burn center and getting used to continuing the process of burn care at home and doing physical therapy, Barrett explained. She's also still getting her voice back after being intubated and making adjustments to other things, like losing her hair in the fire.
"It's going to be a lot," Barrett said. "But she's bright-eyed and communicating and very grateful to be alive."
Barrett recalled a moment at the beginning of this week when she and Stephanie were talking while cutting up potatoes for dinner. The simplicity of the moment and the reality of Stephanie's presence led Barrett to break down in tears.
"I'm just in awe at her courage and bravery," Barrett said.
The three other children in the family - Kamille, Layne and Gunner - are also doing well, although Barrett noted they're still struggling with working through what happened and the long-term healing for everyone will take a while.
While still in the process of recovering in every way, the Wadsworth family specifically wants to be present for the benefit dinner this weekend.
"Stephanie made it a goal to make it out of the burn center so that she could look all these people in the eye and thank them herself," Barrett said.
Thanking everyone in person is also important for Matthew, according to Barrett. She described her brother as an "honest cowboy" who needs to be able to shake people's hands.
"He was so humbled by the outpouring of help," she said.
Barrett also explained the Wadsworth family is not only grateful for all the donations they've received so far, but is already looking for ways to help others. When the family has received more than one donation of a particular item, they've looked for other people in need they can give to.
"They're ready to pay it forward already and they're not even on their feet yet," Barrett said. "And that tells you the kind of people they are."
The family has received a number of donations since the fire, from people providing clothing and furniture to people giving money through a GoFundMe account and other fundraising events. The GoFundMe is currently at $47,050 raised of $50,000 goal. A play date fundraiser at GG's Playland in Green River hosted also raised $1,100 for the family according to a post by Susie Johnson Anastos in the Facebook group.
Despite this help, the family still has a long way to go and could use more support, which is why proceeds from the benefit dinner are important. Barrett explained the money will help the Wadsworths pay for not only the medical expenses from the time in the burn center and the surgeries already done, but also help cover upcoming expenses for continued travel to Utah for further treatment, potential further surgeries, and items such as special suits Stephanie will need to wear for the next year or more. The money raised will also go towards getting the family into a new home since they essentially lost everything in the fire and can't return to their old home, Barrett explained.
The benefit dinner has been in the works for a while, organized by Barrett and several other people who coordinated to make the event happen. Barrett has so far been helping her family long-distance since she lives in Kentucky, but was able to come to Wyoming this week to be with her family, meet the other event organizers and attend the benefit.
"It's very important to me that I show up for them and that they know that through all of it they have backup," Barrett said.
The Wadsworths have felt the backup of not only Barrett but the entire community and everyone who has supported them since the fire. In multiple Facebook posts, Matthew expressed his thanks for everyone who has helped his family "through these trying times" and gave thanks for all the love, prayers and support.
The Wadsworth Family Benefit Dinner and Auction will take place this Saturday, April 9, at 5 p.m. and will be hosted at the Sweetwater #2350 Fraternal Order of Eagles in Green River. There will be dinner, dessert and drinks, as well as a live auction, raffle baskets and kids' games with prizes. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids.