Heroes emerge after Elmwood Park teacher loses home in fire
Elmwood Elementary School teacher Lisa Scimeca and her daughter Rian, 3, have reason to smile Friday during a spirited school fundraiser that was held to help her family after a fire destroyed her home. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 25, 2013 11:27AM
ELMWOOD PARK — At Elmwood Elementary School on Friday afternoon, Lisa Scimeca was happily participating in a Zumba class with hundreds of students.
But the past few weeks haven’t gone so well for the school’s physical education teacher. Scimeca, who has taught in the school district for 10 years and was born and raised in Elmwood Park, lost her home Jan. 9 when it caught fire.
Everything in the Chicago home was destroyed, but fortunately no one was hurt.
Despite the loss, Scimeca was still smiling Friday because of the support she has received from friends, students and parents, colleagues, the school district and the Elmwood Park community. Shortly after people learned about the fire, her colleagues at the school began planning ways to raise money for the Scimeca family.
Sue Ponzio, principal of Elmwood Elementary School, said Scimeca gives so much at the school that they had to do something.
“She is very giving person and goes out of her way for everyone else so because of her kindness we’re giving it back,” she said.
So on Jan. 18, the school hosted two events to raise money for her and her family. The first fundraiser, a Fitness Fun event, took place in the school’s gym with students, parents and staff participating. It cost $10 to get in and there was a raffle with tickets going for $1 each.
Later that evening, an adults-only fundraiser was held at the River Café and Bar in River Grove for the Scimeca family. A $20 ticket to enter along with a raffle and silent auction raised even more money for Scimeca.
At the school’s fundraiser, Scimeca and hundreds of students took to the gym floor to participate in a Zumba class. Afterwards, participants enjoyed cake and ice cream while the students anxiously waited as the raffle tickets were drawn.
The school event raised more than $2,000 for Scimeca and her family.
“It’s pretty amazing isn’t it?” Scimeca said. “I love these kids, my kids (her children) and these kids (students) too.”
Giselle Rodriguez, a teacher at the school, said it didn’t take long for everyone to get together and do something.
“It has been a huge outpouring of support since the first day we heard about it,” she said.
Gordon Moseley, a parent of two children at the school, said the event also proved a great way for the children to get some exercise as well as support Scimeca.
“I like the turnout for her,” he said. “It’s a rough thing for anybody to go through.”
Scimeca admitted the ordeal has been tough, but she and her husband, who met while attending Elmwood Park High School, said they are grateful it wasn’t a lot worse. The couple has four children and two were in the home when the fire sparked.
“My boys are heroes,” she said. “They didn’t wait. They got out and called 911. They followed the plan they had. They did exactly what they were supposed to do.”
Scimeca is overwhelmed by the support she and her family has received from the community.
“I want (the community) to know that we are truly grateful and if you stay positive and stay unselfish you can get through anything,” she said. “God gives you only what you can handle.”
Donations can be made at First Security Bank, 7315 W. Grand Ave., Elmwood Park. Checks are to be made out to “Elmwood PATT” with “Scimeca Fire Fund” in the memo line.