Benefit For Burn Victim's Family

OMAHA (kptm) - After a devastating fire claimed the lives of two men and left another burned over 85 percent of his body. The family is coming together for a benefit to help cover not only the funeral costs but also the overwhelming hospital bills.

Candace Gardner lost her father, Merlin. She says, "It wasn't real to me. I mean it's still doesn't. It feels like a dream."

For the last few weeks the Mangiamelli family has been through the worst. Their uncle and nephew dead and their brother covered in burns over most of his body. Doctors say he has a 30 percent chance of surviving. "He's very critical at this moment. They just keep telling us he's maintaining, is the only thing they're telling us, he's bad ya know, he's trying to fight," sister Sherry Smith says.

Nearly a month ago, the three men were together inside a house near 37th and Fowler Avenue when it went up in flames. The furnace ignited gasoline that wasn't stored correctly in the basement. Now, their brother Joseph is in a drug induced coma. "It's hard, I don't want to lose my brother. He's my big brother. I'm the youngest out of my family and the thought of him not being there it really hurts," sister Charlene Mangiamelli Welch says.

Ever since the fire, Joseph's two sisters, Sherry and Charlene have spent day and night by his side at the hospital, praying for a quick recovery. Sunday, friends and family gathered to show them support and to remind them their not alone. "We're under a lot of stress, everyone's wound really tight. We're trying to deal with it the best we can. At this point we have a lot of family and friends that are here supporting us that put all this together with us. We do the best we can, I wouldn't wish it on anybody, it's terrible," Smith says.

So, while they wait for their brother to recover the Mangiamelli's do what Italians know best. They gather together and support each other over pasta, garlic bread and plenty of deserts. "Actually I had several of my friends bring two cakes each, so all together we have like 36 or 38 cakes," Mangiamelli Welch says.

Bringing together the family and the community. "We have a lot of people here and people we don't know coming to support this and it's just awesome Omaha has such a heartland," Mangiamelli Welch says.

Making the most from a tragedy, and keeping hope that Joseph will survive. If you missed the benefit this afternoon, you can still help the family by making a donation at pinnacle bank, under Sherry Smith for Joseph Mangiamelli.