Friends band together for brothers' holiday
Published: Wednesday, December 16, 2009
By Jesse Reilly
When a police officer notified then 18-year-old Charlie Smith that his mother had died on Mother’s Day 2008, he did two things. He punched the wall and became the head of a household.
“It’s been pretty hectic, my life has changed immensely,” the now 19-year-old said. “I never paid bills before my parents died now I am the one writing everything out.”
Charlie and his two mentally challenged brothers, RJ, 27, and Will, 22, didn’t only have to bury their mother, they laid their father to rest about a year earlier.
“He had a heart attack, it was very sudden,” Charlie said. “I came home and saw him on the couch. My mom and I both thought he was sleeping until he wouldn’t wake up.”
His mother, who became depressed after the death of his father, also died unexpectedly after her medication reacted to alcohol.
“We didn’t see either of them coming,” Charlie said, adding that before Feb. 23, 2007, when his father died, they were just like any other family.
“We were really tight,” he said. “We all loved each other very much.”
Since their passing Charlie graduated from Hatboro-Horsham High School and worked as a mechanic until earlier this month when the gas station where he was employed closed.
“I had been there about a year and I knew business wasn’t good,” he said.
He has been out of job since Dec. 1 and is currently looking for other jobs, but has yet to successfully land one.
Although Charlie took automotive courses at the Eastern Center for Arts and Technology when he was in high school, he said a lot of the places he has been looking for work require certifications that he does not have.
“Even though I don’t have them I know what I’m doing,” he said. “I’ve always worked on cars.”
His friends can attest to his experience.
“He is the type of person that if you call him, will come out and fix your car anytime you need him to,” Matt Palo, a friend of Charlie’s since middle school said. “Even in the middle of the night, he’s just that kind of person.”
With RJ and Charlie out of a job, Will is the only one with an income two weeks before Christmas. He has been working at the Wawa on York Road in Hatboro for two and a half years.
And even though Charlie said he and his brothers are not in dire straights just yet, his friends are pulling together to give him a good Christmas something the family hasn’t had since their parents died.
“In the times we’ve all known him he’s given us so much and now this is our time to give something back to him,” Palo said. “We’re not just friends we’re all more like a family.”
For about two weeks the family’s friends have been putting out donation boxes throughout the community for the Smiths, organized a benefit at Tonelli’s on Dec. 22 and got all the boys’ Christmas lists.
RJ is hoping for a television, Will, an avid bowler since high school, is looking for a new bowling ball bag, and Charlie said he could use a new hood for his car.
The friends are also hoping to get the brothers some new clothes.
“I know RJ is still wearing some of his father’s clothes and his dad was always a lot bigger than him,” Palo said. “They just need some new things.”
In addition to gifts under the tree, the friends are hoping to spruce up the house with the money leftover from Christmas.
“It’s falling apart,” Craig Leva, one of Charlie’s friends and senior at Hatboro-Horsham High School said.
There are cracks in the floors, leaks in the basement, holes in the walls and aging wallpaper throughout the first floor.
“I think they’re all tried of walking in the house and just seeing a million flaws,” friend Kristin Rasovick said. “We want to help them have a house.”
In the midst of Christmas planning the group is also working on a video to submit to the television show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
“It’s gotten worse over the years and we know they’re doing the best that they can,” Rasovick said. “We just think it would be great for them.”
“It [the house] needs work, my room is always cold,” he said, adding that this year, with the help of his friends, he is actually looking forward to Christmas.
“I am getting excited,” he said. “It’s been real hard because I was a mama’s boy. I miss my parents all the time.”
The family’s friends spent the weekend decorating the house for Christmas and are proving that even though money is tight for everyone the holiday spirit is alive and well.
“Christmas last year wasn’t that great, it was the first one without either of our parents,” Charlie said. “The holidays are the hardest of the year for us because our mother always seemed to know us best.”
The Smiths will receive a Christmas dinner from Hatboro-Horsham High School’s Feed a Friend program and open gifts on that special day with the friends that have become their family.
“It makes me feel awesome that they’re doing this for us,” he said. “I wasn’t excited for the holidays but I kind of am now.”