Remembering a friend Shannon Grodzicki has never given people the chance to forget about Amanda Schoenberger
PATRICK BURNS Record Express Staff firstname.lastname@example.org
, Staff Writer
Christmas this year marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic deaths of second-grader Amanda Schoenberger and her parents in a house fire that began when heated Christmas lights ignited the family’s tree.
But because of Amanda’s friend Shannon Grodzicki, this is more than just a benchmark anniversary of remembrance.
Shannon has never given people the chance to forget about Amanda and her family.
She has made the tragedy an almost daily solemn occasion of remembrance by creating the Amanda Schoenberger Memorial Smoke Detector Program.
Shannon – Amanda’s second-grade classmate at John Beck Elementary School and good friend – is now a Warwick High School senior.
For a decade, Shannon, along with "taxi-driving" parents Bob and Julia Grodzicki, has raised funds for smoke detectors working various events such as Lititz Craft show.
"The program started in June 2004 at the gazebo at Lititz Springs Park," Shannon said.
Though she was only 8 years old, Shannon launched a fundraising program that to this day provides free smoke detectors to every family in the Warwick School District.
"My wife and I are so proud of her being so level headed all these years not looking for any recognition for what she was doing," Bob said.
The Amanda Schoenberger Memorial Smoke Detector Program has raised about $15,000 and given away around 3,000 smoke detectors.
Shannon shies away from the spotlight, Bob said.
"She prefers to be just doing something to help the main cause so ‘no-one dies in a fire again’ as she told Lititz Fire Chief Ron Oettel 10 years ago," he said.
This weekend, Shannon along with her 12 year old sister Caitlyn will once again be at Bomberger’s Store in Lititz raising funds and giving away smoke detectors.
"It’s amazing that people – some from out of state – who saw her year after year fundraising for smoke detectors say: ‘I remember when you were just a little girl’," Bob said.
Shannon and Amanda were just little girls who attended John Beck Elementary School in 2003 when the 12:55 a.m. fire filled the Schoenberger’s home in thick smoke Dec. 25, 2003.
R. Scott Schoenberger, 37; his wife, Rebecca Lynn, 37; and Amanda Lynn, 7, died of smoke inhalation.
The Schoenbergers were asleep in their second-floor bedrooms when lights draped on the pine tree heated up dried-out branches and started the fire, state police reported.
Bob said a woman coming home from midnight mass stopped when she saw smoke pouring from the duplex on the 700 block of Furnace Hills Pike.
She banged on the door and windows of the burning home before going next door, where a family of five lived in an adjoining unit.
But it was too late for the Schoenberger family.
"The combination of heat and toxic smoke likely killed them," Oettel reported in 2003. "It appears the fire had smoldered for a while before spreading through the first floor of the house."
Flames were shooting from the first-floor front window, near where the pine tree stood surrounded by packages, when firefighters arrived.
"There is strong evidence that the family had perished before we were ever dispatched," Oettel had said.
Shannon remembers her parents – in a tearful discussion in 2003 – explaining that the only smoke detector found in the home was lying on the attic stairs and didn’t have a battery.
"With working smoke detectors they would all be alive," Shannon said. "I just wanted to get smoke detectors to anyone that needed them after I was told by my parents what happened to Amanda and her mom and dad back then on Christmas morning."
Shannon first solicited donations from people and businesses in Lititz hoping "that people would accept the free smoke detectors if they needed them."
She thanked the Lititz Fire Company No. 1 and the Warwick Emergency Services Alliance, which had first established a fund to buy and then distribute smoke detectors throughout the community.
The fundraising has continued for 10 years but Shannon’s future schedule – she plans to attend college in the fall – will affect her availability.
An excellent student and softball player, Shannon has several scholarship offers. She’ll pursue degree in physical therapy most likely at one of her top choices: Messiah College , Slippery Rock University , Lebanon Valley College, Alvernia University , University of Pittsburgh, or Arcadia University
But the taxi-service from Bob and Julia Grodzicki will begin again as will the Amanda Schoenberger Memorial Smoke Detector Program.
"My 12-year-old sister Caitlyn will help out with some fundraisers with my dad when I will be away at college," Shannon said. "So you will still see us around, hopefully for years to come."
More REMEMBERING, page A22