After losing their father and their home, the Clayton family is starting to pick up the pieces thanks to community support.
It was the smell of smoke that woke 7-year-old Miller Clayton up. His house that he shared with his parents and two brothers in western Flagler County was fully engulfed in fire, but thanks to a recent lesson in fire safety from Imagine School Town Center, Clayton knew just what to do.
"Miller woke Luke up and put blankets over both of their heads," said his mother, Amy Clayton. "They stayed low to the ground until they got out of the house, climbed the fence and went to the neighbors."
"What he had learned in school helped him and his little brother escape, which is wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time." —Imagine School Town Center Principal James Menard, who has spoken with the Clayton family everyday since the fire.
Once arriving to the neighbors house — where Amy Clayton always told her boys to go during an emergency — the neighbor contacted her, who was out of town with her 14-year-old son Kevin Lee Clayton.
"She called me and said 'Amy you're house is on fire, and we can't get Kevin out,'" Amy Clayton said. "I fell to the ground."
Kevin Clayton, Amy Clayton's husband of 14 years, was found dead inside the home. Investigators found a firearm nearby, and the medical examiner's office has ruled his death an apparent suicide. Kevin Clayton leaves behind the boys and a 20-year-old daughter. The family's dog, Murdoch, also died in the fire.
"He was always a great and loving dad," she said. "The younger kids are okay right now, but they don't fully understand the finality of death. They don't get that they are never going to see their dad again. My oldest son is taking it the hardest because he realizes that. He was also the dog whisperer in our family, and he's taking that loss hard as well."
Amy Clayton has found an overwhelming amount of community support from her job as an assistant at Realty Pros Assured in Ormond Beach. Realtors Bill Navarra and Caryn Baker started a Go Fund Me account for the Clayton family to help them get back on their feet.
"They lost everything," Narvarra said. "We're trying to get the family into a rental, get new clothes, dishes, everything. Everything was destroyed. She's been my assistant for 10 years, and she has the biggest heart in the company. She is the heart of the company. Just an amazing person."
"Amy is one of the nicest people you could ever hope to know," Baker said. "She's also incredibly strong and resilient, so I' know she'll pull through this."
Between the online donations and an additional collection they started at the Realty Pros office, the community has raised over $10,000 to help the family rebuild their lives.
"I am just overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation," Amy Clayton said. "I can't believe the kindness and compassion of people willing to help us, especially perfect strangers. I feel like all of that helps me know that we are going be okay."