Artist Builds Customized Caskets for 5 Kids Killed in Fire

December 1, 2014
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EDNA, Texas — In a garage that usually customizes hot rods, owner Trey Ganem is spray painting something else entirely — five personalized caskets for the children who died earlier this week in a mobile home fire here.

One is for Noah Ortiz, 15, an Edna High School varsity football player, whose casket is coated in his school colors, along with his name and jersey number.

Another is for Julian Ortiz, 13, who loved WWE professional wrestling.

Nicholas Ortiz, 9, liked video games. His casket is lined with the popular game Call of Duty.

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The two sisters, Areyanah Hernandez, 6, and Lilyana Hernandez, 5, loved different characters from their favorite movie, Frozen. Their caskets feature each of their names with princess crowns on top.

“We want it to be more of a celebration of that person’s life,” said Ganem, who owns Ganem’s Garage. “(We want) to give them a little bit of peace, that those were his babies. That represents my baby. That’s not just another box.”

On Friday the children’s parents, Johnny Hernandez Jr., 30, and Annabel Ortiz, 32, arrived to see the gifts, which Ganem is donating to the couple. They lost all but their youngest son, 4-year-old Johnny Hernandez III, when the fast-moving fire began at about 5 a.m. CT Tuesday in this town about 100 miles southwest of Houston.

“This community has pulled together like none that I’ve seen for this family,” Ganem said.

As of late Saturday, nearly $50,000 had been raised for funeral and family expenses in two GoFundMe campaigns. A local bank also has a fund set up, and people like Peggy Davis in this town of 5,700 residents also have rallied around the family with other donations.

“I just wanted to do something toward expenses for the family,” she said.

During Saturday night’s playoff game, Noah’s Edna High Cowboys took to the field for the first time this year without their sophomore starter. Team members wore stickers with his jersey number, 50, on their helmets during the game in his memory, Superintendent Robert O’Connor told the Jackson County (Texas) Herald-Tribune.

Funeral arrangements for the children are still pending, and the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

“This community has pulled together like none that I’ve seen for this family,” Ganem said.

[h/t: USA Today]

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