Summit community rallies to support family who lost its home in the Marshall Fire
The Ruperts worked for Summit School District for more than a decade
While the Marshall Fire was just over 80 miles from Summit County, one family that used to call Summit home lost its house and everything in it, and the Summit community is stepping up to help.
Laura and Mike Rupert, along with their two daughters, moved from Summit County to Louisville in June 2021, and while the family is safe, not a single item in their home survived the fire. Mike said firefighters did what they could to douse the home in hopes of sparing some damage, but not even the house’s steel support beams survived.
Laura said it’s hard to imagine losing everything you’ve ever owned until it happens.
“Throughout each day, we are hit with the extent of what has been lost, from baby clothes our girls first wore home from the hospital, to Christmas ornaments collected through the years,” Laura wrote in an email. “… We lost extremely meaningful, irreplaceable things, like my late mother’s jewelry and my old Army uniforms. Our car along with bikes, skis and camping gear are all gone.”
Both Mike and Laura worked at Summit School District for more than a decade, and the family left Summit County after Laura didn’t return to her position as principal at Frisco Elementary after a leave of absence last February. A former co-worker of the Ruperts at the school district started a GoFundMe page for the family, which has since raised over $60,000.
The couple is beyond words when it comes to how their friends, co-workers and families of children they taught over years showed up to support them.
“Our friends and community were what kept us up in Summit for so many years,” Laura wrote. “It was a fantastic place to raise our daughters, surrounded by people who became more than family to us.”
When the Marshall Fire started, the Ruperts were out of state visiting family for the holidays. Mike said they were at a Six Flags amusement park when their phones started blowing up, and a close friend and neighbor kept the family updated as he drove toward their house to see what he could do.
“We thought perhaps he could grab a bike or two and get our car away from the house,” Mike wrote in an email. “As he was punching the garage code in, a firefighter grabbed his shoulder and told him he had to leave immediately.”
After initially staying with relatives, the family is back in Louisville living in a home that they are working to buy from the owners.
Laura said her family’s connections in Summit and on the Front Range have done whatever they could to help.
“They gathered items from daily essentials like toothpaste, soap and clean water, to big things like furniture and beds to sleep on,“ Laura said. ”Neighbors new and old lent us a table and chairs, a sofa and coffee table, dishes and clothing. Some friends went as far as to print some of our family photos and put them in frames to truly make us feel at home.“
Tony Pestello, who owns iFurnish in Frisco, donated some of his business’ clearance furniture to the Ruperts after one of the family’s close friends reached out to ask for help.
“We always want to help our community. That’s what we do at iFurnish,” Pestello said. “They still have a ton of friends in our community, and I know there’s thousands of people that are in need, but it was one little way that we could help.”
Pestello said he told the Ruperts’ friend to pick out anything from the clearance center, getting items including a dining room table, chairs, nightstands, headboards and a mattress. Pestello also said one of his employees had an extra TV she wasn’t using and donated it to the family.
Pestello also sits on the board of The Summit Foundation and said the organization is encouraging folks to donate to a similar organization in Boulder County, the Community Foundation of Boulder County, which is raising money for those impacted by the fire.
The Ruperts both still work in education, and neither of their schools were impacted by the fire. Both of their daughters’ schools survived the fire, despite the neighborhood right across the street from their schools being destroyed.
“The fact remains that we are safe and very loved,” Laura wrote. “And for that we are grateful.”
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