A family says thank you

STEUBENVILLE – The Follansbee couple who lost their daughter and home to a natural gas explosion on Oct. 11 said they have been overwhelmed by the support they have received – not only from their own community but communities across the Ohio Valley and people in other parts of the U.S. and even other countries who learned of them through the Internet.

George and Tracy Mozingo gathered at a reception Tuesday at TEAM Ford-Lincoln-Toyota, where George is a long-time employee, with representatives of some of the many groups that have reached out to help them.

Advertising specialist Kim Weaver said many groups were invited, and there were plans to release a list of all who have made contributions to the family, whose Eldersville Road home was destroyed and 13-year-old daughter, Hannah, was killed in the blast.

But that list literally fills a large cardboard box, she said, while still more fundraisers and contributions are planned.

Tracy agreed, saying, “We would like to thank everybody individually, but there were thousands of individuals and many groups. It just goes on and on and on.”

Still, the Mozingos felt a need to express their appreciation, so with the help of Weaver and their friend, C.J. Grishkevich, a thank-you will go out in the form of television and radio commercials. Grishkevich and his wife, Stacie, initiated fundraising efforts soon after the explosion, establishing a fund for them at Progressive Bank in Wellsburg.

The family, which also includes the Mozingos’ son Tyler and daughter Haley, also asked local media to share the following letter:

“We would like to thank everybody for their support during this difficult time in our lives. Hannah was our amazing daughter. Hannah will be missed by many people. We miss her very much.

“Hannah loved cheering, she cheered for the Follansbee Blue Waves (city football league) for five years, she also danced at Michelle’s Dance Studio. But she also liked to play in the mud. It could be on a quad or just making mud slides with her friends. She also loved going hunting with her dad and Tyler.

“We have received an amazing amount of cards, letters and donations from all over the world. This has really touched our hearts and we thank each and every one of you for your support.

“Our community and surrounding areas have come together like nothing we have ever seen before. It’s amazing to see everybody come together, even people we didn’t even know, from other states.

“We are so grateful and we thank you. We want to thank every person who took time out of their own lives to help put together the Mozingo benefits. We also want to thank every person, every business and all area schools for their support and donations. I’m sure Hannah is smiling down on us.

The letter concludes with “Stay Hannah Strong – motto adopted by many groups at Follansbee Middle School, where Hannah was a pupil; and Brooke High School, where Tyler and Haley are students – and “Happy holidays to all!”

George, Tracy and Haley have been recovering from injuries they sustained in the blast. George was transported to Pittsburgh’s Mercy Hospital for treatment of burns he sustained, while his wife and daughter were taken to Trinity Medical Center.

George has returned to work on a part-time basis, while Tracy, a teaching assistant at the Weirton Head Start Center, has been recovering from fractured bones in her wrist and leg.

The family also has moved into an apartment. But with the explosion only a little over two months ago, it’s difficult for them to talk about it at length.

Grishkevich said messages and donations from people all over the Ohio Valley offered the family hope at an extremely difficult time.

His wife Stacie noted support for the Mozingos extended across county lines and the Ohio River. For example, Oak Glen Middle School’s volleyball players sought a way to express their sympathy when they played the Follansbee Middle School volleyball team, so they wore camouflage ribbons in their hair.

Students and staff at Steubenville City Schools raised $2,800 through a soup and baked good sale.

And Scott College of Cosmetology, where C.J.’s niece Savannah is a student, raised $3,240 through the haircutting and styling services of students at its Wheeling and East Liverpool campuses.

The three examples are among many cases of sympathy and contributions offered to the Mozingos from various groups in the Ohio Valley, but they haven’t ended there.

The Rev. Dan Cooper, pastor of Hooverson Heights Church of Christ, said he knew Hannah not only through youth functions at the church she attended but also through his job as a school bus driver.

He said Hannah was energetic but very quiet. Despite her unobtrusive nature, “She had a great smile. You could feel her presence in a room.”

Cooper said delivering her eulogy “was one of the toughest things I ever had to do.”

He said a special monetary collection was taken at his church and a member who works at a local Bob Evans Restaurant arranged for a fundraiser there, but members of his church wanted to do more.

That desire led Cooper to establish a page on the GoFundMe website that has drawn donations from people throughout the U.S.

“The first two hours it was up, we had about $1,000,” he said, noting it’s linked to his and others’ Facebook pages.

“It just went viral very fast. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cooper said, adding it and the church’s other efforts have raised $10,000 for the family.

Steve Diomedi, general manager of TEAM Ford-Lincoln-Toyota, said the Mozingos were deeply moved by the response from their community and beyond it.

“George and his family are good folks – very humble – and they were very humbled by the support they got,” he said.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com)