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Medical Lake teacher affected by Gray Fire gets heartwarming surprise
MEDICAL LAKE, Wash. — As residents of Elk and Medical Lake evacuated their homes, many were forced to leave their most valuable possessions behind. As the communities try to rebuild, some items just can't be replaced.
We all have those special items we hold onto for years. These can be family photos, baby clothes or high school memorabilia. Jerry Ornelas lost all of the above in the Gray fire, but a close friend helped him replace the irreplaceable.
Ornelas has taught at Medical Lake High School since 2001. When evacuation orders were issued for the Gray fire, he left with a change of clothes and a handful of items for his daughter. When he returned, he found nothing intact.
"Just seeing the ashes, metal, and refrigerator burnt, the washer/drier burnt…it was just so surreal knowing we'll never come back to that house again," Ornelas said.
With homecoming on the way, Ornelas remembered his prized high school baseball jersey.
"It had our name on it, and my daughter and I would wear it for spirit week at the high school," Ornelas said. "It was a special item we'd share."
Jerry was telling his colleague Angel Hammond about this loss when she had an idea. Angel contacted the current athletic directors of Moses Lake High School, Ornelas’ alma mater.
"Their immediate response was just, it was amazing, it was within not even 30 minutes," Hammond said.
A few days later, Moses Lake Athletic Directors Clint Scriven and Loren Sandhop traveled to Jerry’s class to surprise him with not only a new jersey, but a yearbook, and diploma.
"I was overcome with emotion, I could not believe it. To be in class and be surprised like that is awesome," Ornelas said.
Ornelas reminded his class that a high school diploma is something we work hard to earn. Thanks to an act of kindness in a time of need, Jerry has that diploma once again.
"Knowing that people are out there still caring about us is awesome," said Ornelas.
He says the rest of that day was filled with high-fives and hugs from all of his Medical Lake High School students.
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