Lightning destroys Habitat for Humanity home weeks before family's move

LAKELAND, Fla. - Just five weeks before construction was expected to finish, a new Habitat for Humanity home burned to the ground.

Kelly and David Wilson of Lakeland spent hundreds of hours working on the home with a large group of volunteers.

Two weeks ago, a typical Florida thunderstorm rolled into the area and lightning struck the home. The house burned to the ground within minutes.

"You just have to start over sometimes, and that's what we're doing," said Kelly, a mother of five. Her 7-year-old boy, Caden, suffers from cystic fibrosis and needs constant medical care.

Her husband also suffers from the disease and is also the recipient of a double lung transplant, so most of the family's money goes to medical bills. It's why they turned to Habitat for Humanity, and after putting in a year's worth of work, the foundation began working on a custom home for the Wilson family.

"Like a dream home for us," Kelly said.

So much sweat went into building it, and eventually even more tears after lightning struck.

"I got (to the home) around 11 o'clock that night and I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry," said John Roberts, construction manager for Habitat for Humanity.

Kelly vividly remembers arriving at the home and finding nothing but burnt debris.

"I got out of the car and started crying immediately because we worked so hard as a family on that house and now it's gone," she said.

The same group that helped construct the home, Youth Build, has dragged scorched debris to its grave.

But things are starting to look up for the Wilson family.

Tuesday night, Caden gets to throw out the first pitch at the Rays game, and Habitat for Humanity vows that it will get this home built even if it means starting from scratch.

"We're starting from the existing slab and we're going to rebuild it and it's going to be better than it was before," Roberts said.

Habitat for Humanity hopes to start re-building the home as soon as it gets approval from the county.

The organization is currently looking for plumbers, electricians, roofers and any other contractors who are willing to donate their time. If you're interested, contact Habitat for Humanity in Lakeland at 863-682-3812.

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