LORAIN, Ohio — When Alicia and Drew Zadorozny discovered a firefighter's helmet in the crawlspace of their Lorain home, they never anticipated it would gain this much attention.
"I definitely called the dentist yesterday, and the lady who answered the phone was like, 'Are you guys that family that found the helmet?'" Alicia said.
Originally, Drew had wanted to seal up the crawlspace, but Alicia wanted to take a look inside first. Among old books and broken furniture was the helmet, with "Lorain" emblazoned across the front and the name "C. Wilker" on the inside.
In true 21st century fashion, Alicia went Facebook, hoping someone would recognize the name or the helmet. Sure enough, the post took off, and she learned the helmet's wearer, Clarence Wilker, was a longtime Lorain firefighter who passed away in 1990.
Alicia was able to get in touch with his family, son Brian Wilker and daughter Kim Novak. Brian had followed in his father's footsteps as a lieutenant with the Westlake Fire Department.
On Wednesday afternoon, the siblings arrived at the Zadorozny's Lorain home to receive the helmet.
"I think this belongs to you guys," Alicia said, handing it to Brian.
"Oh yes, yes," Brian responded as he turned the helmet over in his hands. "It is very well weathered."
Brian said he idolized his father, who Brian's children — two sons and a daughter — unfortunately never got to meet.
"It brought up a lot of emotions through the whole week and stuff, pictures and people," Brian told us. "I was telling stories to my sons about my dad, their grandfather.
"It brought up a lot of emotions — some good, some bad — but I'm really glad that we got this."
When she first saw the helmet, Alicia said she knew it would mean something to someone, causing her to save it and search for its owner rather than throwing it out.
"It felt like I knew him," she said of Clarence Wilker. "I was waiting, I was so excited for [Brian] to finally have that back. It's a good feeling."
Alicia says she and her husband Drew have both lost a parent, and understood how important a family memento like this could be to someone.
"It just brings good memories back from him, even though he's been gone for so long," Brian explained. "It just brings us a little bit closer."
Alicia says people do good things not for what you're going to get out of it, but for the way it makes you feel. However, the Wilker siblings found a special way to say thank you.
Drew is deploying to the Middle East in just a few days, and in an emotional moment, Kim handed Alicia an envelope and the two embraced, a gesture of thanks for a family treasure recovered.
"Take this and take some time to have dinner on us," Kim told Alicia, "because we really appreciate this. Thank you."
Both families said they have been amazed at the community's reaction to their story, and the help they received in connecting with one another.