GRIZZLY FLATS, Calif. (KTXL) — When the Caldor Fire ripped through the community of Grizzly Flats, Kim Gustafson fled with her 7-year-old son Chris.
“Just jumped in the car and left,” Gustafson said.
The flames leveled their beautiful home in the woods.
“We lost the house that I helped my dad and grandpa build 40 years ago,” Gustafson told FOX40.
“I didn’t know what else to do to help my friend Kim aside from starting a GoFundMe for her,” said Capt. Ashley Clemons, with the California Army National Guard.
Clemons and her husband have a home in Grizzly Flats that survived the fire. The GoFundMe she set up to help her friend raised about $400 at first and then leveled off.
Then, ultra-marathoner Major Samantha Wood entered the story.
“And I kind of had the idea of raising money for a family, but I don’t live in California. So, I wanted to ask some of my friends who live in California if they knew anybody,” Wood said.
“And a friend of mine who is also a major in the California Army National Guard, Major Angela Delwiche, reached out to me and said that Major Wood was looking to help somebody that was affected by the fires in California through her 200-mile run,” Clemons said.
True to her word, Wood raised pledges by running 200 miles.
“And it took me about 83 hours and 24 minutes. But I slept every night, so I averaged about 50 miles a day for four days,” Wood said.
Wood had been training for the Tahoe 200 endurance run, which was canceled in September because of the fire. Instead, she chose a looped course near her home in Colorado Springs and invited her community to watch or run alongside her for a while.
More importantly, she requested donations to the GoFundMe for Gustafson and her son Chris, who she had never met.
“You know, it’s like deploying with your fellow soldiers and completing a mission for the greater good. It’s just that whole sense of we just completed this mission together,” Wood said.
More than $7,000 went to the GoFundMe.
“I had also hoped that they would just feel part of a greater community like there’s someone out there looking out for them that cares about them,” Wood said. “Every little bit is going to help them.”
“I just consider her an inspiration and she’s the type of leader that I want to be in the military,” Clemons said. “Just the sacrifice that she made, physically, mentally and emotionally, what she put her body through in support of someone she doesn’t even know.”
“I was in disbelief. I mean what kind of angel would do something like that for a complete stranger. She’s just amazing,” Gustafson said. “For people to be so generous and to help out and to make sure that we have a chance to actually stay where we love is fantastic. And I appreciate it so much. I could never repay the kindness.”
To donate to the GoFundMe, click or tap here.