Firefighters adopt San Bernardino victim's family

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- For years, the Newport Beach Firefighters Association has adopted a local family for Christmas, but this time, the group chose to help the Wetzel's, who lost a beloved father and husband in the San Bernardino terror attack.

Mother and wife Renee Wetzel said it was the first time she's seen her son Conner smile in a month.

"He looked really happy...," she said. "My son hasn't shown any emotion since everything happened."

Wetzel's husband Mike was among 14 gunned down in a staff meeting in San Bernardino on Dec. 2 at the Inland Regional Center. The 37-year-old was a supervisor with the San Bernardino County Environmental Health Services Department.

"We didn't find out anything until 10:30 p.m. that night," Wetzel said. "Ever since then, it's the worst days of my life."

Wetzel said she met with President Obama when he visited victims' families last month.

She said she told him she doesn't believe there should be a ban on all guns, but maybe a limit on how much ammunition you can buy.

"I'm curious why you have to have identification to buy Sudafed, but you don't have to have an ID to buy bullets," she added. "I feel like if I can prevent this from happening to one person, he (Mike) wouldn't have died totally in vain."

The two shared a blended family. Mike left behind six children - their youngest just 16 months old.

"We told them the next day what happened - that a bad guy came to where daddy was working, and daddy got shot and he's in heaven now," she said.

Mike was the sole breadwinner of the family, which brings us back to Newport Beach and the firefighters who wanted to help the family from Lake Arrowhead - 100 miles away.

For the past nine years, Newport Beach fire officials have adopted a family from their area, but they said this year was an exception.

"It was following a terrorist event... before Christmas," said Joe Harrison, a firefighter with the Newport Beach Fire Department. "It was so drastic and such an extreme situation."

Firefighters started raising money for the family, and as of Sunday night, about $70,000 have been reached. The goal is $2 million.

Just two days after the New Year, however, the Newport Beach firefighters surprised the Wetzel's with something special.

The family of six children and their mother received a reliable vehicle that can seat seven and can handle snow.

"It's gorgeous, I'm shocked," said Wetzel. "We're just so grateful for all the donations."

The mother of six said the unexpected acts of kindness are helping her family not only financially, but are also helping them see goodness still exists.

"There truly is more good than evil in the world," she said.

If you'd like to donate to the Wetzel family, visit and click on the Wetzel family link.
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