By Devin Fehely

BURLINGAME (KPIX 5) — There was a special holiday party Wednesday on the peninsula. The guests of honor: children who lost everything in the wine country fires.

Seated together, sharing a meal, two groups of students were almost indistinguishable.

But one has been shaped by all that they have lost. The other was surprised by how much they have to give.

St. Eugene second-grader Delilah Cook was forced to evacuate during the Santa Rosa fires. Her house was spared, but many of her classmates weren’t as lucky.

“I like to make new friends,” Cook said. “It’s very sad. And two of my classmates — they lost their house.”

On Wednesday, Cook and her classmates at St. Eugene’s were the guests of honor at a special Christmas lunch at Our Lady of Angels church in Burlingame.

Burlingame  has opened its hearts and wallets to people who were strangers before the fire.

Our Lady of Angels Fr. Michael Mahoney said, “For them to be able to share what they have with these children is a huge learning experience and also one that gives them a greater appreciation of how lucky they are.”

Twenty-three children at St. Eugene’s lost their homes. The parents of 25 others lost jobs in the aftermath of the firestorm, but it’s a tragedy felt by an entire community.

St. Eugene Principal Barbara Gasparini said, “About 90 percent of the kids … had to evacuate in the middle of night. Flames around them, some of the stories were really frightening.”

The two groups of students will be pen pals for the next year. One learning a lesson in compassion and generosity. The other in uncommon grace.

Parent Cynthia Cook said, “It’s overwhelming, the gratitude that we have as a whole. And really it’s brought our community together.”


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