Notre Dame Elementary helping fire victimsBy Laura Dudnick
The students presented a $1,000 check to a young woman and close friend of the school whose Glenview Drive house was destroyed in the San Bruno fire.
When 22-year-old Alexa Tafralis arrived at Notre Dame Elementary School in Belmont this morning, she thought she was going to sing and dance for the students.
At least, that's what Lisa Smoot, whose four children Tafralis has baby-sat for the past five years, told her.
But when Tafralis, whose house was destroyed in the San Bruno explosion and fire in September, arrived at the campus just in time for the morning prayer, members of the Student Council instead presented her with a $1,000 check the students had raised to help her and her family.
"I was completely shocked," Tafralis said after receiving the money.
Tafralis has known the Smoot family for six years, and been their baby-sitter for five, Lisa Smoot said. Her four children -- Michael, Kristin, Katie and Paul -- adore Tafralis like a sister.
The children love to play sports with Tafralis, a sports-enthusiast herself, Smoot said.
"My kids just love her," she said.
Tafralis, a lifelong San Bruno resident who lived with her brother, mother and father at 1100 Glenview Drive, said she was driving home from work on Skyline Boulevard when the explosion rocked her San Bruno neighborhood the evening of Sept. 9.
"My friend called to ask me to play basketball," Tafralis said. After Tafralis agreed, and her friend said she had a pair of shoes Tafralis could borrow, Tafralis turned around and started driving in the opposite direction.
And that's when the explosion occurred, she said.
Her father was home at the time, and suffered burns from the heat. She said he "got pushed around" the house before he fled up the hill and away from the flames.
The blaze ended up killing eight people and destroying dozens of homes, including Tafralis's.
Tafralis's father has undergone one surgery, and she said will need at least two more. She and her family, who believe they were kept alive for a reason, now live in a rental home in San Mateo.
"We're firm believers, we're Christians," Tafralis said. "We're protected really well."
The students at Notre Dame Elementary, guided by the eighth graders and Student Council members, together raised the money to help Tafralis through various programs.
The fall Harvest Festival, held around Halloween, as well as selling T-shirts helped bring the total to $1,000.
"We wanted to help because the San Bruno fire was really close to home," Allie Coon, an eighth grade student and co-president of the Student Council, said.
She added that no students' homes were impacted by the San Bruno fire, so they wanted to find someone close to their community to help.
Eighth grade student Will Fitzgerald said the students opted to give the money to Tafralis instead of a general donation to the American Red Cross in order to make it more personal.
Copyright ©2010 Belmont Patch. Published 11/29/2010.