EAGLE -- It's been one year since a tragic house fire in Donnelly took the lives of four people.
Two Idaho National Guard members and two children were killed when flames ripped through the cabin they were staying in near Tamarack Resort. In honor of two of the victims, loved ones created a foundation to help other military families. The 1SG Erin R. and Autumn McCall Family Foundation hosted their first fundraiser on Friday in Eagle.
“She was a person that would help anybody and everybody,” Erin Smith’s father, Mike Strong, said.
1SG Erin Smith and her adopted daughter Autumn's lives were cut short on June 30, 2017 when a devastating fire tore through a cabin they were staying in.
“I don't know that it'll ever seem like it's been a long time,” Strong added.
“The fastest and the slowest year ever,” Erin’s sister, Jessica Carlson, said.
But today, their memories live on. Created by Mike and Jessica, with many strong helping hands along the way, the 1SG Erin R. and autumn McCall Family Foundation is finally a reality - with the ultimate goal of supporting the military and military families by providing caring support and needed services.
“My dad actually came to me and said I want to start a foundation. I want to be able to help military families in the community. And at the forefront of that was to help military families adopt,” Carlson said.
“I just thought that would be the best way to continue her legacy on,” Strong told KTVB. “A climax of a lot of months of a lot of hard work by a lot of people.”
“We got the right people in the right places at the right time,” he added.
A VIP memorial benefit event was held Friday evening at a home in Eagle, with a silent auction, posting of the colors and national anthem, a live auction and exclusive live concert. It was an emotional, yet exciting, night. Proceeds from the concert and auctions are going toward the foundation's mission: a three-pillar approach, with "Autumn's Gift" at the forefront.
“Erin always told everybody Autumn was gift and as Autumn got older she would always introduce herself and say, ‘Hi, I’m Autumn and I'm a gift’,” Carlson said.
The foundation’s goal is to fully fund expensive adoptions for active duty military families so others can experience what Erin and her husband, Mitch, did.
“It’s a big deal to bless somebody with a family and something she truly – she wanted to be a mom and adoption gave her that chance to be a mom,” Carlson said. “It's been months and months of planning and to see everybody here tonight coming out to support us while we do our auction and raise money. So we are hoping to actually be able to do two adoptions within the next year.”
The foundation aims to continue the values and teachings Erin was instilling in Autumn and in her military brothers and sisters.
“This would have been a huge adventure for Autumn, she would have just loved it. And Erin would have been thrilled with something like this if it had been for somebody else,” Strong said.
“Everything was an adventure with them,” Carlson added.
Through the “Eyes Full of Wonder” program, they're also hoping to help guard members and other active-duty military with child care during drill weekends and annual training - at no cost to them.
“There’s nothing out there like this so with us being able to do this we're going to really be able to fill a void,” Strong said.
“We will give you this gift and… life's an adventure and live it to the fullest,” Carlson added.
The 1SG Erin R. and Autumn McCall Family Foundation is hosting a memorial benefit concert open to the community from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Ada Eagle Bike Park. There are still tickets available and they will be selling them down at a booth set up at Eagle Fun Days during the day on Saturday. You can find a link to learn more and purchase tickets on the foundation's website.