Editor’s Note

This story is in response to a reader-submitted question through Open Source, a platform where readers can submit questions to the staff.

WALHONDING — No injuries were reported, but the cause of a fire that completely destroyed a nonprofit camp, because I said I would, early Sunday morning remains unknown.

The Bladensburg Fire District was alerted to the commercial structure fire at 3483 McCament Road, Walhonding, at 4:06 a.m., according to a fire district’s press release posted on its Facebook page.

The release states multiple emergency units were requested due to the reported nature of the incident. More than 40 firefighters from 11 agencies worked to contain and confine the blaze. The release doesn’t state what other fire agencies were on the scene, although it reports they were there until 12:59 p.m.

Assistance from the Ohio Fire Marshall’s office was requested to determine the cause of the fire. The release also states damage to the building is a total loss.

Alex Sheen, founder and CEO of because I said I would, was at the charity’s original office at Rocky River in Cuyahoga County when he was informed about the fire.

“I was dead asleep and my dog started barking,” Sheen said. “An employee was at my door just pounding on the door and said a fire had started. I looked at my phone, I’d missed 12 calls.”

What was lost in the fire is hard to overstate, Sheen said. The charity’s computers, printers, recreational equipment, cleaning supplies, washers and dryers, books, shirts, merchandise inventory, records, and 10 years worth of keepsakes were destroyed.

Sheen said insurance is very unlikely to cover the operational losses that were incurred. “We believe it’ll cover the cost of the building and that’s great,” Sheen said. “But how long does it take to rebuild a building? We need to survive until that point.” 

“I feel it’s not necessarily the loss of our memories or the work that it’s gonna take. It’s the fact that we can’t help people in Knox County to the same capacity,” Sheen said. “But if you teach resiliency skills as we do mental health habits, these things that we’re focused on, well it’s time to take our own medicine.

“We are not going to just sit here and give up as much as life feels like it points in that direction. We are going to do the best we can with what we got and we’re going to keep fighting the good fight.”

Indian Bear Winery 02

Sheen plans to meet with local community leaders, businesses and donors to scrap together funds to transform the charity’s storage barn into a group activity center.

Sheen purchased the property Feb. 7, which was previously the Indian Bear Winery. As of Friday, the charity has served roughly 150 people and 30 families.

“We’re just still trying to put together a plan and that’s why community support is so important. We were attracted to Knox County for many reasons and we want to stay here,” Sheen said. “If it was up to us, we’d do it by ourselves.

“We’re not afraid of hard work but we are at a point of no return where we need the support of the community.”

It was 10 years ago, on Sept. 4, 2012 when Sheen’s father died of stage four small cell lung cancer. Sheen’s father was a man of his word and kept his promises, he said. The title of his eulogy was Because I Said I Would.

“I handed out what I called a promise card, just a piece of paper,” Sheen said. “It’s supposed to be a symbol of your commitment. You give it to the person you’re making that commitment to and you earn it back when you’ve fulfilled your promise.”

So far, over 14.7 million promise cards have been distributed to more than 178 countries, Sheen said.

“This is about all those people in need who can benefit from building resiliency skills, mental-health habits, character development. You can get stronger. Life doesn’t always get easier. We get stronger and that’s something we help kids and families do.”

For those interested in donating, click here or go to camp.becauseisaidiwould.org.

The Knox Pages Open Source section is brought to you by Habitat for Humanity of Knox County.

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