Christmas Day brings back horrible memories for a Valley Center family that lost everything in a house fire. Now, one year later, they are doing what they can to restore the spirit.
Brian Sanderson and his wife Stephanie want to bring back the glow of Christmas to their children. "Living a year without all that excitement is hard. So this year, we hope to have fun," said Brian Sanderson.
The family's home burned on a day most look forward to. A day typically filled with games, food, and gifts. But anticipation for Christmas this year was not about opening presents. "I was nervous because I didn't want anything to happen like what happened last year," said 10-year-old Reed Sanderson.
The family finally got back into their home in November, just in time for the holidays. "In the house we were renting I kept telling my dad, I'm ready to go home, I'm ready for a dresser, I'm ready for a bed," said 12-year-old Hailey Sanderson.
They have all that now, but the tragic memory of what they lost stays with them in their minds and around their necks. Each child now wears a necklace with a special message engraved. "It says Rosco, Daisy, and Jasmine and those are the animals we had prior to the house fire that died in it," said Reed Sanderson.
Now, three new animals are bringing some joy back to the home. "It was almost six months before we bought the new pets just because we weren't sure if that was the right thing to do at that time. You could tell by the way our children were acting that it was definitely the right time," said Stephanie Sanderson.
A decision to help with a year that mom and dad say forced their children to grow up faster than most. "To leave one day, your animals, your clothes, your dolls, your toys, everything, then come home to nothing and then be told we have to go live in a hotel now until we can find a place to live, that's not growing up," said Brian Sanderson.
Although most of this year's gifts were "needs" more than "wants," Brian Sanderson says his kids understand. "They were glad to get the socks because one, they needed them. But two, it was a hard lesson learned for all of us, but it definitely taught us all respect," he said.
"It's good to be home and have Christmas at home," said Reed Sanderson.
A home the Sanderson family plans to spend the holidays in for years to come.