ELYRIA — Last Saturday, the Davila family lost everything. Yesterday, they were the subject of benefits, vigils and motorcycle rides, something William Davila calls “mind boggling.”
On July 7 shortly before 3 p.m. the Elyria Fire Department was called to William Davila’s home in the 400 block of 2nd St., the two-story home fully engulfed. William Davila was outside when the fire started, while his daughter and three grandchildren were in the house when it happened. While his daughter and granddaughters made it out OK, nearly five hours after the fire started, the body of his grandson, Omeire West, 4, was recovered. Fire officials suspected the boy, found in his bedroom, had died of smoke inhalation before the fire reached him.
Since then, Davila’s union at UPS, friends and community members have organized fundraisers and donation drives for the family. Saturday was the “overwhelming” culmination of a week of planning for several groups, which came together to organize a charity motorcycle run and spaghetti dinner out of First United Methodist Church on 3rd Street. The groups involved raised more than $3,000 in cash and several hundred dollars in gift cards Saturday.
“I want to thank everybody, it’s really heartwarming,” William Davila said. “I want to thank the whole community. There’s a lot of people we want to thank but we can’t because they’ve given, but they didn’t give us an address … So it’s like I can’t thank them because they left … I wish I could say thank you but I can’t.”
Leandra Castillo was on scene while the fire raged through Davila’s house. Organizing donations from the scene, she returned to her motorcycle club, Disturbin’ Da Streetz (DDS), determined to put together something to show the family they had the community’s support.
Soon, Castillo, with others, had planned a 34-mile ride through Lorain County, which would take them past the Davila’s house before circling through Lorain, Vermilion and back again to First United Methodist Church. DDS charged $10 per-bike to raise money.
“Today is just a day for Omeire,” Leandra Castillo said. “We’re not an MC club, we’re not a (police) department, we’re just a community. And I’m no one but one rock, because one person can’t do anything alone. So I’m the rock, thrown in the river and I made a ripple. And that ripple turning into a (tsunami) — and now we have, I can’t even say how many people from different counties are coming in right now, it’s legitimately unreal.”
Police departments volunteered their time to block of roads while the groups rode by, fire departments blew their sirens and passersby honked their horns as more than 100 bikers road through the county – putting aside club differences to support the Davila family.
“At this point there’s no villains and heroes, we all want to be heroes for a child – it’s a beautiful thing, I’m very proud to be a part of it,” Leandra Castillo said. “The community needs more of this, so many times the news are there … people have their phones out, everybody’s recording this horrible incident that’s happening. But then, once it’s over, everybody goes home and nobody did anything with that information. Nobody did anything with that recording, they just got the news … I don’t want to watch it, I want to help, and this is the only way I knew how.”
For Leandra Castillo’s wife, Stephanie “Jersey” Castillo, the benefit Saturday, and other rides like it, are a chance for club members to show they’re not scary or intimidating.
“A lot of these people in leather are like teddy bears,” she said. “They’re all in to help people out and help families out … Events and tragedies like this we really try to help them out.”
Members of the family were at first hesitant at what to make of the leather-clad men and women riding for Omeire. The boy’s great aunt, Maria Garcia said the benefit changed her perception of motorcycle clubs and their members.
“When you think of motorcycle people, you think that they’re … into all the bad stuff, and when they came up and started talking to Willie, especially (Leandra Castillo) it was really touching how they came up and my eyes were opened to a lot more good that they do instead of in my mind what they were all about,” Garcia said.
A highlight of the afternoon was through a partnership with the Young Marines and the clubs. Virginia Williams, 78, whose grandchildren are Young Marines, had been in a club when she lived in California, but hadn’t since she moved to Ohio. But on Saturday afternoon, members of DDS gave her the chance to ride again.
“It means heaven,” she said. “I haven’t rode in 20 years, but it’s amazing.”
For some of the men and women riding Saturday, the event hit close to home. Many of them parents or grandparents, they came out to support William Davila, regardless of if they knew him or not.
Donny “Hillbilly” Ware, president of the Street Lords out of Lorain, rode with Leandra Castillo past the house at the front of the group.
“We all got kids, we sympathize with what they’re going through and grandkids, — I’ve got three, two of them similar age – so just helping them out a little bit,” he said. “They’d do it for us.”
Vernita “Stay Ready” Newson, president of the DOLLS (Divas Otherwise Lovely Ladies) club said the ride hit close to home, after the death of her daughter, Rayven Newson, 16, in April.
“This is a little bit emotional for me, but I’m going to do it,” she said.
After the dozens of clubs got through “disturbing the streets” on their ride, they made their way back to First United Methodist Church for the Young Marine’s spaghetti dinner benefit. The dinner was by donation, with several raffles and collections for gift cards set up.
Commander Anthony Ruth said the idea for the benefit came from one of the Young Marines, who wanted to do something for the family following the coverage of last week’s tragedy.
“Everything’s really come together,” he said. “(Leandra) called me and said ‘hey, I’d like to team up. We want to do a ride and have your place be the ending point, so all the bikers can come eat and I said absolutely.”
Ethan Bozman, 13, and Nik Majors, 10, helped suggest the spaghetti dinner to their commander.
“They lost everything that they own, they lost their kid, they lost all their furniture and they lost it all, even the house,” Ethan said.
Nik added, tearing up, “I have a nephew, he’s 1 (year old) and if I lost him, I don’t know what I would do without him.”
According to Ruth, as word got out, planning for the event close to doubled – from planning for 300 and cooking for 500, to planning for 500 and cooking until they ran out of food.
“As far as coming together as groups, it just shows that anything is possible,” he said. “I didn’t know any of these guys, and now we’re just kind of blending our families together and it’s kind of a cool thing to see make happen.”
The benefit was also a chance for Ruth, like members of Davila’s family, to broaden their understanding of motorcycle club members.
“I told Lee, I’m at fault myself because when you look at somebody you judge them,” Ruth said. “So our first meeting, we met out in Lorain at their clubhouse and you have all these bikers sitting at this table, all dressed in their colors and stuff and we’re kind of intimidated. But as you get to know them it’s heartwarming to see that we’re all humans. We’re here to love each other, love the family, support the family and I actually apologized for her yesterday … for being that guy that judged (them).”
An emotional afternoon, between the ride and dinner, brought together military veterans, fire officials, the Davila family, bikers and community members, something Stephanie Castillo said the country needs more of.