Hope from ashes

Despite his home being burnt down by a fire, Colin Williams, a UF Health Shands Facilities Development HVAC mechanic, smiled as he talked about his supportive UF Health Shands family.

Photo courtesy of the Gainesville Sun

Photo courtesy of the Gainesville Sun

“I don’t know if I can ever repay everyone for everything they did for me and my family, but I’m going to try my best,” Williams said.Around 4:30 a.m. on July 30, Williams heard a noise outside his bedroom that didn’t sound right. He walked to the back of the house and found it engulfed in flames. He immediately got his wife, 16-year-old son and two dogs out of the house safely.

“We are very lucky people,” Williams said.

Following the fire, Williams called John (J.W.) Willingham, UF Health Shands Facilities Development Maintenance director, to tell him why he wouldn’t make it to work. Willingham was ready to lend a hand.

“I threw on some clothes, grabbed clothes to give to Colin’s boy, and headed over there with my sons,” Willingham said.

He spent the day helping Williams however he could.

“I know he would have done the same for me,” Willingham said.

Fellow UF Health Shands Facilities Development employees helped jumpstart fundraising efforts, which led to numerous donations to the Williams family.

Williams extended eternal gratitude to team members David (Gerry) Hunter, HVAC mechanic; Joanne Kneal, business coordinator; and Mike Graziano, maintenance facility operations supervisor. They, and many others, helped spread the word about Williams’ home to generate support.

“I don’t want anyone to be left out,” he said. “I’m a part of a great group here. It was very touching receiving all the help and support, and we are so very grateful. I can’t say it enough.”

Read more stories like this on the UF Health Bridge — check out the “Empathy Corner” feature on the home page.