Lifestyle & Human Interest

After Losing Everything in House Fire, Third-Grader Cries 'Happy Tears' When Classmates Give Him New Toys


Two weeks after a third-grade boy’s family home in Tennessee went up in flames, his classmates left him in tears when they gave him a heartwarming surprise.

Kristen Hunt Wilburn was making lunch in her kitchen on Sept. 21 in Philadelphia, Tennessee, when a fire started near the oven. She sent her 8-year-old son, Daniel Hunt, across the street while she called 911.

“I tried to find something to put it out with and had no luck so we got out,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle.

Even though the fire destroyed nearly everything the Hunt family owned, the small community rallied around them.

“We have had churches, the Red Cross, neighbors, family, and friends all reach out and help in some way,” Wilburn said. “We are very blessed and thankful.”

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A surprising act of kindness on Friday is what ultimately left young Daniel in tears, however.

The teachers at Daniel’s school, Philadelphia Elementary School, thought about how they knew that his classmates would want to pitch in as well, so they organized a secret toy drive and invited the parents of all of the third-grade classrooms to participate.

All week the kids stealthily brought in toys and kept the secret until Friday.

“The kids could not wait to do this for Daniel,” school counselor Kelly Jones told NBC’s “Today” in a statement. “It was amazing to witness the excitement these third-grade kids had while sneaking in toys.”

“The entire week, they couldn’t love him enough. People were holding doors for him, getting his pencil ready for him each morning, taking his chair down from the desk for him to sit in, and swarming him at recess. They kept the best secret!”

On Friday dozens of his classmates excitedly huddled in a classroom and waited to surprise Daniel. As they yelled “Surprise!” he barely knew how to respond.

“He said ‘I love it! Everyone come here,’ with his arms open wide,” Jones said. “The kids immediately swarmed in for a large group hug.”

Jones was amazed that Daniel’s first reaction was to thank his friends.

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“I love that because it shows Daniel’s big heart,” she said. “When he saw what his class did for him, he didn’t immediately start going through the toys — he wanted to give his classmates a hug for what they did for him.”

It was an emotional moment for everyone involved.

“Every adult and even a few students had tears swelling up in their eyes who were in the room to witness this,” Jones said. “I feel extremely blessed to have witnessed the pure love and giving from the hearts of the third-grade students at my school.”

Daniel later told his grandmother that he was “crying happy tears” and that he had joy in his stomach, according to Yahoo Lifestyle.

“I sat and cried at work for a good 45 minutes,” Wilburn told WVLT-TV. “I’m just so overwhelmed at all the love and the community coming together for us.”

“It’s just very overwhelming and a blessing.”

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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