Finding something special in tragic loss |

Finding something special in tragic loss

Eight-year-old Alana Vieira had never met Kayla Smith before. The only thing she knew was that Kayla, a basketball player for Sierra College, had lost everything in a fire that torched her home.

Kayla, a 2004 Bear River graduate who was living with family friends in Rocklin so that she didn’t have to commute to school everyday, woke up one morning in early January to flames engulfing the upstairs of the house where her room was located.

She jumped out of bed and ran outside to safety.

While she found safety, sadly she lost nearly everything she owned in the blaze, even all of the Christmas presents she had unwrapped just weeks earlier.

Shortly after the fire, Corrine Vieira, who works in the admissions office for Sierra College, was driving in her car with a co-worker discussing Kayla’s loss. And, after her co-worker left the car, Corrine looked to her back seat and saw that her daughter Alana was in tears.

“What’s wrong?” Corrine asked, shocked to see her daughter crying.

Alana went on to tell her mother how badly she felt for Kayla and asked, “So you mean she lost every? Even her toothbrush and all of her dolls?”

Corrine told her daughter that yes, Kayla had lost everything including her toothbrush and dolls. Alana then told her mother she wanted to help and asked if she could take all of the money out of her savings account to give to Kayla.

Corrine was surprised at the suggestion, but told her daughter that there was probably a better way to help and would ask one of Kayla’s teammates, who also worked in the admissions office with Corrine, what she needed the most.

Last summer, Alana had attended basketball camp at Sierra College. She came home the first day almost in tears because all of the other girls were so much bigger than her. They next day she asked to go in early and get some extra help with her shooting.

“She was one of our smallest campers, but her enthusiasm and hard work earned her the Coaches Award for her age group,” said Kylee Keroher, an assistant coach for the Sierra College women’s basketball team and a Bear River graduate.

Alana came home beaming from ear to ear and her love for the Wolverine basketball program was born. This season, she and her mother attended numerous games to see the girls play, but never met Kayla who is redshirting this season.

After talking with Kayla’s teammate, Corrine found out that what Kayla needed more than anything was T-shirts for practice.

Alana and her mother immediately set out on the mission.

“We went out and bought Kayla a couple of T-shirts and the entire time Alana told everyone we ran into the story about Kayla,” Corrine said. “We ran into a friend of ours whose husband happens to work for Pepsi. After hearing Alana’s story she talked to her husband and he gave Alana some 2004 Pepsi T-shirts they had.

“The same thing happened when she ran into the Sierra College wrestling coach – he gave her a wrestling T-shirt and sweatshirt for Kayla.”

In addition to finding clothes for Kayla, Alana convinced her mom to let her withdraw $20 from her bank account to get Kayla a gift card to Target. She also cut out a round card and colored it like a basketball and wrote supportive words on the inside.

Last Saturday, after Sierra College’s playoff game, Alana took her gifts to Kayla and told her, “I’m sorry about what happened to your house and I wanted to get some things to help you.”

Kayla, having never met the tiny second-grader in her life, stood there in shock, but found the words to thank Alana.

As Alana and her mother walked away and Kayla thought about what had just happened, she burst into tears.

How could someone who had never met her before, care so much to go to all this work for her?

“I just heard about what happened to her house and I felt worried about her,” Alana said. “I wanted to give her things she needed and money for a toothbrush.”

This is not the first time Alana has shown such compassion.

Corrine tells about how all of their friends and family bring clothes and assorted items over to their house so that Alana can take them to the Salvation Army or Goodwill.

“Alana is just like that,” Corrine said proudly. “After she watched ‘Annie’ and found out that there really were homeless kids in real life, she immediately wanted to donate things to the Salvation Army and Goodwill.

“Last year she donated 25 of her books to the Sierra College Library. She’s just a little humanitarian.”

Alana herself doesn’t see anything too special in what she’s doing – it’s all very logical to her.

She has clothes that don’t fit or books she won’t read and knows there are people out there who could use her belongings.

“I don’t know what to say – I’m so thankful I can’t even explain my gratitude,” Kayla said. “I can’t believe she took all the time to help me … it really does give me new perspective on people.”


Stacy Hicklin is a sportswriter at The Union. She may be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 477-4244.

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