Maddie’s aunt keeps her in touch with Blanks, neighborhoodWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: Toledo Free Press will follow the Blank family of Millbury for one year as they rebuild their lives after a June 5 tornado destroyed their Main Street home.
When Ed and Julie Blank lost their home on the night of June 5, they also lost the joy of watching Maddie Walters ride her bicycle, play in the yard and just be one of the kids in the neighborhood.
And while they only see the second-grader on occasional visits, they think of her frequently and want the best for the little girl who lost her whole family and home to the tornado.
“I miss seeing her and her brother Hayden riding their bikes on the driveway and they had a basketball hoop out there,” Julie Blank said. “They used to come over and go swimming, and I am sure I will miss that.”
Maddie’s aunt and legal guardian, Amy Sigler, does her best to keep her late sister’s daughter connected to the Blanks and the rest of the Millbury neighborhood. Amy brings Maddie to walk the property where her home once stood.
“It is something we do periodically. Drive through to just be there. That is where she was born and grew up. If neighbors are out, we say hello to them.”
But Amy and the Blanks were connected long before the tornado. Amy’s husband, Craig, grew up next door to Julie, and later Amy became her Mary Kay consultant.
Then, six months before the tornado, Ed’s son, Eddie, purchased the Siglers home in Millbury.
With that purchase, God’s plan was under way, according to Amy. She and her husband moved to Northwood with their twin daughters, Abbie and Evie, who are one year younger than Maddie.
Their new one-story home is handicap accessible. This ended up being helpful when they brought Maddie home in a wheelchair because of the injuries sustained when the tornado threw her 20 feet into the air.
Maddie also used their pool for physical therapy.
“God’s hand has been on that girl since Day 1,” Amy said. “It has been difficult this past year, but also a blessing to see how God has used this tragedy to bring people closer to him.”
People have been forced to look at Maddie’s life and said, “I want to make sure I don’t mess up this life,” Amy said. They have also secured their eternal life with God.
Amy and her family talk to Maddie about seeing her family in heaven. Life on Earth is short and temporary — and sometimes cut way too short — but Maddie will see her mom, Mary, dad, Ryan and little brother, Hayden, someday.
While Maddie has become their third daughter, they don’t want her to lose the memory of her parents and she still calls them aunt and uncle. One time, long before the tornado, Amy and her husband talked about possibly adopting a third child. When the will called for Amy to take Maddie, they knew it was part of God’s plan.
People often say her religion has helped her find peace in this tragedy, but it is more than religion, “It is a deep relationship with Jesus Christ,” Amy said.
For now, nothing will become of the property where Maddie’s home once stood next to the Blanks. Amy said it is in the estate’s name and it will remain empty so the family can walk the grounds freely. Although grass and sidewalks will be installed, “nothing will become of it until we feel God’s direction,” Amy said.
After all, it is up to God. The tornado. Maddie. The empty lot.
“God is good. God is still in control,” Amy said.