Chesapeake family with close ties to Eastern Tennessee take action for fire victims

Posted at 9:11 PM, Dec 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-02 23:21:35-05

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Twelve people are now dead from the raging wildfires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Miles of acres are scorched and more than 14,000 people were forced to leave their homes.

Even hundreds of miles away in Hampton Roads, the fiery destruction hits close to home for one family.

"I mean, we cried, it's very sad," says Liz Cunningham.

Chesapeake mom, Liz, and her daughter Jessica, call Eastern Tennessee "home."

They lived outside of Gatlinburg for several years.

"That's where my fondest memories are as a kid," says Jessica.

"I moved there primarily going through hard times," says Liz. "My daughter was young."

While the flames missed where their family members and friends currently live, some of their favorite places in the resort city and the Smoky Mountains are gone.

"I made reservations for people, took them up to the cabins, so a lot of that stuff now probably isn't there anymore," says Liz. "I just can't imagine the devastation up there in the mountains, it's going to be horrible, I'm not even sure if I'm ready to see it."

The two are still making their annual trip to see family in a few weeks and they are not going empty-handed.

"This is something that we can do now and once we get there, we'll see.

After learning about the need for monetary donations, Jessica set up a GoFundMe page to benefit Dolly Parton's "My People Fund."

Parton announced this week that she will donate $1,000 each month to families' affected.

"Right now I feel like that's the only way I can contribute being so far away."

While the family says they cannot provide much, it is something to give back to the place that helped this family get their start.