Christmas in the Park invites Camp Fire survivors to help with holiday tree lighting

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the South Bay, Christmas in the Park is helping survivors of the Camp Fire. The deadly fire is still burning in Butte County.

From Friday through Sunday, 100-percent of donations collected by Christmas in the Park will go to fire victims.

Paradise residents, Mike and Kitty Smith were in San Jose on Friday. The Smith's and their family were invited to flip the switch during Friday's annual tree lighting. Mike and Kitty shared the stage with nine other family members who also lost everything in the deadly fire.

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For the Smith family, happy holidays is the hope. Mike and Kitty told ABC7 News, they've lived in Paradise for the last 20 years. The two have raised children and grandchild, and have celebrated the most special times together.

"Thanksgiving, Christmas," Kitty Smith said. "Just three days before the fire, we were having a Halloween party and celebrating a new home we just moved in. Three days later, we were running for our lives."

Mrs. Smith explained their lives were already changed months before. In February, tragedy first struck the family when Mike and Kitty's daughter, Crystal, was killed by an alleged drunk driver. Crystal's fiance, Jon, also died in the crash.

Mike told ABC7 News, "We've been real devastated, but we're holding it together."

Family friend and Christmas in the Park board member, Joseph Schumaker said he posted to social media about the Smith's. Event coordinators immediately knew something needed to be done.

"Really, what this became was our opportunity as Christmas in the Park to really do what we're supposed to be doing, which is helping the community," Schumaker said.
The money raised through Sunday will go to Camp Fire victims through Caring Choices, Northern California's Emergency Volunteer Center.

"It goes beyond the Smith family, of course," Schumaker said. "But these guys have just been through so much this year."

RELATED: Butte County Fire: How you can help the victims

"From one minute to the next we're crying over the loss and the grief, and then this gives us something to look forward to," Kitty said about being invited to help with the tree lighting. "To take our mind off of the sadness."

The Smith family shared this GoFundMe page as well. Separately, Christmas in the Park will be collecting donations in-person and online, for all victims.

Christmas in the Park is located at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in Downtown San Jose.

Mike, Kitty and their nine other family members are being hosted by the Fairmont Hotel during their stay.

See more stories, photos and videos on the Camp Fire in Butte County.
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