As the Burnham family mourns the death of 10-year-old Arlan Garrick Coty, who died during a tornado that swept through Tennessee on Saturday, donations are pouring in — so many clothing donations, his mom says, she wants them to go to others.
Arlan, a fourth grader, was one of at least six people who died when severe storms tore through central Tennessee. He didn’t make it out of his house, which was in the direct path of the storm, his mother, Katherine Burnham, wrote in a Facebook post Monday.
After saying their Clarksville home was gone, Burnham admitted she and her husband “are not okay.”
“We don’t know how to navigate through this,” she wrote. “We have no idea what is next. Anyone who knows me at all knows how much I love and adore my kids, all kids really. I cannot put into words how absolutely devastated I am.”
Burham said an “entire army of people” has been helping them dig through the rubble of their house to find belongings — including drawings Arlan made in kindergarten that were recovered. On one page, he said he wanted to learn how to cook with his mom. Burnham told CBS News they got to do that – a lot.
Other friends are giving them food and helping them do laundry and one created a GoFundMe page on behalf of the family. More than $184,000 has been raised — far surpassing the fundraising goal of $5,000.
Burham told CBS News via Facebook message she wants donors to start focusing on others. “We no longer need clothes and want those donations to go to other families in need,” she said. “There are so many displaced families in similar situations, my heart is broken but there is enough love and support to go around.”
“When my son was born I knew he would touch so many lives, I knew he was special. This may not be how I dreamed, but he definitely touched more people than I ever even knew,” Burnham said. Two other children lived in the home and survived.
She said her mind has been blown by the generosity from people around the world. “My baby is leaving an entire legacy behind.”
The Clarksville Police Department identified Arlan as one of the victims, as well as 59-year-old Donna Allen, of Florida, and 34-year-old Stephen Kwaah Hayes, of Clarksville, CBS affiliate WTVF reports.
The three other victims were killed as the storm hit a mobile home community in Madison, Nashville Police said. They were identified as 37-year-old Joseph Dalton, 31-year-old Floridema Gabriel Perez and her son, 2-year-old Anthony Elmer Mendez.
At least 60 other people were taken to area hospitals and nearly 40,000 electricity customers were still without power as of Sunday morning, according to the tracking sitepoweroutage.us.
The storms caused a building at a Nashville church to collapse, sending 13 people to local hospitals, according to the Nashville Office of Emergency Management. On Sunday, Emergency officials were now in the “search and rescue phase of this disaster,” Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said.