Hero’s valiant efforts praised

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 29, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

One local youth has learned a valuable lesson from the devastation of a fire that destroyed his family’s home on April 13. He has also learned that &uot;Spiderman&uot; isn’t the only one who can be a hero.

Zachary Sykes was presented with a &uot;Lifesaving Award,&uot; Wednesday from the insurance organization, Woodmen of the World (WOW). Sam Callis, Suffolk WOW president, presented Zach with a large cherry wood plaque proclaiming the fact that the child saved his family from certain death in the fire that totally destroyed their $240,000 Desert Road home.

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The youth was first named recognized for his valiant efforts by Suffolk’s Emergency Management Coordinator Captain Jim Judkins of the Fire Department. He said the boy is &uot;a real little trooper,&uot; and that he acted in a most intelligent and responsible manner in spite of the fear he faced that early Sunday morning.

&uot;He was the encourager, bravely telling his parents they could rebuild their home,&uot; said Judkins.

As Callis presented Zach with the plaque honoring his bravery, he told the boy that the award is made only after the WOW carefully considers the act of heroism in question.

&uot;This is the 52nd lifesaving award that I’ve had the honor of presenting to local heroes,&uot; said Callis, a member of WOW for 67 years. &uot;And, that’s been only over the past 10 years. Zach is the second recipient this year.&uot;

Callis is qualified to recognize a hero when he sees one. He, too, saved someone from a fire while he was a young man.

&uot;My family home caught fire in April 1932 and I ran 400 yards to the house and because it was cypress shingles, it was blazing,&uot; said Callis. &uot;I ran into the house to get my baby sister, Frances, who is now Frances Callis Eure of Gates County, N.C.&uot;

Callis also noted that WOW celebrated its 100 anniversary in 1990, and the Suffolk club, which meets monthly at their Kansas Street clubhouse, is the second oldest in the state.

As for Zach, he said he just wanted to get his mom and dad, Karen and W.C. Sykes, out of the house. The fire also consumed $30,000 in contents in the home, and it took the life of &uot;Honorable Sampson of Suffolk,&uot; a 13-year old registered Doberman that had been with Zach since he was a baby.

He wanted to save his beloved Sampson, too, but smoke and fire prevented saving him.

When he couldn’t get Sampson out, Zach ran 300 feet in the dark of night to a neighbor’s home as his mom instructed him to do to alert &uot;911.&uot; He then went back to the burning home site to find that his mom had rescued a puppy that ironically came to the family the day before the fire. That puppy, now named Ruby, has helped Zach overcome the tragedy of losing the only home he’s ever known.

Ruby is now five months old and she’s training at the Dean’s List Obedience School for Dogs.

&uot;Ruby can sit, stay and heel and some of the other puppies at the school aren’t doing that yet,&uot; said Zach. &uot;They were really surprised when they first met Ruby because we think she’s a pit bull, but she’s one of the sweetest dogs in the world. The day I found her, I wrapped her in my jacket because she was so cold. My mom saved her from the fire and we ended up keeping her. I think we did the right thing.&uot;

Ruby, once a wandering vagabond with no clean pallet to lay her head upon, can do no wrong in the eyes of the News-Herald. After all, Zach has taught her to fetch his favorite news publication, &uot;The Suffolk News-Herald.&uot;

&uot;Every morning, Ruby goes out, picks up the News-Herald and brings it in to my dad and mom,&uot; said Zach. &uot;They love the News-Herald.&uot;

The other lesson Zach has learned is one of love for others. He’s witnessed the humanity of those who helped him and his family after the fire. With their home destroyed, the people of Holy Neck Christian Church opened up the parsonage to them.

&uot;For a church to jump in to help that quickly is unusual,&uot; said Karen Sykes. &uot;They called us the day after the fire to see if we wanted to rent the parsonage. We got it the next day and we really love it because it’s way out in the country like the home we lost.&uot;

The Sykes family is waiting on the insurance company to settle the claim for the home that was destroyed in the fire.

Zach is a third-grader at First Baptist Christian School where the principal is Susan Glover. She set aside a day in honor of Zack, where she was presented Zack with gift certificates for Wal-Mart, Farm Fresh, and Land’s End to help restore to them things lost in the fire. Zack received enough clothing that his parents didn’t have to worry about replacing his school uniforms or other apparel.

&uot;One of the mother’s of Zack’s friend called to ask if she could take him shopping,&uot; said Karen. &uot;That was a big surprise. Everyone at First Baptist has been so wonderful.

Zack said he found the true meaning of friendship when one of his best friends offered to help out.

&uot;His name is Jim Humphrey, and he and his mom wanted to take me shopping at Chesapeake Square Mall,&uot; said Zack. &uot;They took me shopping at Toys R Us and Walden Books and took me to Ruby Tuesday’s to eat. It was all so much fun and I will never forget my friend, Jim.&uot;