Over the past two weeks, community members have been shocked by the story of the Yoders, a Towanda family that lost not only their house, but their son in a Feb. 15 fire in Towanda Township.

As more and more details emerged about the harrowing attempts of family patriarch, John Yoder II, to save his 2-year-old child's life that night, local residents searched for ways to help the family.

Mary Wilcox, a friend of the family, organized a fund raising event which would far exceed her own expectations. As a mother of three, Wilcox said she couldn't imagine what the Yoder's were going through after losing one of their children, and quickly decided to organize the donation drive.

The event, held on Sunday, brought together an estimated 2,000 people over a five-hour time period at the Towanda Area Elementary School, Wilcox said.

Although Wilcox has no concrete numbers from the fund raiser yet, she estimates $15,000 was raised at the event.

"All of the money received is going directly to the family. As far as I know, it was deposited this morning to their personal bank account," Wilcox said.

The money was collected at the event through direct donations, a donation dinner, silent auctions, Chinese auctions, and a bake sale. Face painting and arts and crafts were also available for children during the donation drive, and a DJ was on hand to keep the adults entertained.

According to Wilcox, the Yoder's made an appearance at the event, taking the opportunity to thank donors and volunteers for their time and money.

Some donors came from as far as Endicott, N.Y., Wilkes-Barre, and Scranton to personally make a donation and extend their condolences to the family. Some donations were received from as far as Texas, Wilcox said.

Wilcox, who has previous experience organizing fund raising events, said that the event held Sunday was not only the most successful endeavor she has headed, but it was the easiest to coordinate.

"I've done a few events before and it seemed like you had to ask for help, but for this one everyone was coming to us to help," she said.

While certainly a testament to the severity of what happened, it also shows how supportive and generous the local community is, Wilcox noted.

The amount of support received from local businesses can be described as nothing more than astonishing. For the silent and Chinese auctions held, approximately 200 items were donated by numerous local businesses.

Wilcox wanted to thank volunteer Chris Griffith of Chrizma Salon for the time and energy she put into the project. The salon was one of many donation drop off points available throughout Bradford County.

Organizers wanted to thank safety inspectors of the Pipeline for a large donation.

Wilcox also thanked the Towanda Area Elementary School for allowing them to use the gymnasium for the event, as well as the school faculty and staff, many of whom donated their time to helping at the event.

Tim Zyla can be reached at (570) 265-1634; or email: tzyla@thedailyreview.com.