Firefighters in Somerset County brought Christmas to victims of domestic violence.
Members of the Princess Anne Volunteer Fire Company spent the month of December rallying local community members to collect toys and money for two children who lost their mother, and were critically injured, during a hammer attack earlier this month.
On Dec. 6, police said 26-year-old Sharef Dontre Hayward of Baltimore stabbed his 25-year-old ex-girlfriend, Airealle Sells, and assaulted her two children with a hammer inside a home on the Eastern Shore. Sells died from her injuries a few days later.
Her 8-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son were listed in critical but stable condition, and are currently recovering at the Johns Hopkins Children Center. Hayward was charged with attempted murder, and investigators are looking into modifying the charges against him.
The firefighters stepped in to help during the tragedy by organizing a toy drive for the kids that also helped raise awareness on domestic violence.
“Princess Anne Vol. Fire Company has decided that it time for our communities to pull together and help these children in this local tragedy,” the group posted on Facebook. “But we don’t want to just stop there; we want to assist those woman and children that have been affected by domestic violence, also those children that will be in the hospital on for this Christmas.
Families, first responders and businesses across the country accepted the challenge, donating toys, money and even batteries for the cause.
On Friday, firefighters delivered the toys to the two children, and also to kids at area shelters.
"I've prayed since Dec. 6 for these children," Princess Anne County Fire Chief Rondell Redding said. "They're miracle children ... it hits me hard, I have kids of my own and for the senseless act, what somebody did, I can never understand it, it's a disease... domestic violence is a disease. To see the heartfelt love from a community where people you know and people you don't know, it's overwhelming and I'm still very thankful."
Redding said they set up a trust fund for the kids and already have $4,000.
He said the station also started a journal that they write in every day that they will give the kids when they get out of the hospital.