We're all in it together.
Johnny Hekker was relaxing in his Thousand Oaks home on Tuesday afternoon when he turned on his television and saw that a handful of wildfires were ravaging the Southland.
So the Rams All-Pro punter did what many of us wanted to do, but didn't. He took action.
"I saw how fast it escalated with the winds and it got out of hand," said Hekker. "I went outside and smelled the smoke. I saw the ash on my car and realized something needed to be done."
On Sunday, Hekker will be taking the field in arguably the biggest and most anticipated game of the Rams season. But that didn't stop him from leaving the comfortable confines of his home in order to help others.
Knowing that their community—both in Los Angeles and Ventura Country—were under threat from fire and dangerous air quality, Hekker sprung into action with his wife Makayla, who is seven-months pregnant, by his side.
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Hekker contacted Ventura County Star beat writer Joe Curley to ask where he could go and what he could do to assist those in need. Curley, who ironically was helping out with coverage of the fires himself, was at the Ventura County Fairgrounds at the time, where a press conference was being held.
Curley sent Hekker a list of shelters in the area, and told him that there was a shelter at the fairgrounds and that victims of the Thomas Fire, which burned down hundreds of homes in the Santa Paula area, were in need of warm clothing and other supplies.
So the Hekker's immediately jumped into their truck and headed to Target in Newbury Park, where they filled up four shopping carts full of sweatshirts, sweatpants, underwear, diapers, baby wipes, socks and toys.
"I didn't spend enough," Hekker said. "Walking around the store, I couldn't grab enough stuff. I really want to go back and just buy out the whole place because there are so many people here who are in need of so much."
Hekker said initially he was concerned about his wife wanting to go with him because he wasn't sure if the smoke in the air was good for the baby, but once they reached Target, she took action, and helped him with purchases he would otherwise not have known to make.
"It made walking through Target that much easier," Hekker said of his wife. "She knew what to grab. I would have been lost in the Women's section. She has a big heart. "
As the Hekker's were waiting in the line to check out, he was touched by a token of generosity that moved him to tears.
"One of the men at the store came up to me and gave me $40. He said, 'I know what you're doing,'" continued Hekker. "It moved me to tears."
Together, Johnny and Makayla drove to the Ventura County Fairgrounds and hand delivered the items to the shelter shortly after 8 p.m.
"The people were grateful. A lot of them had nothing.," Hekker said of what he saw. "They didn't have sweatshirts or sweatpants and it was cold there in the shelter. We bought a lot of sweatshirts and sweatpants. I grabbed some footballs and a bat for kids to play with. I saw a little kid running around playing with it and it moved me quite a bit.
"It was moving, to see everyone, including the firefighters who were just taking a quick break before heading back out into the mountains."
Hekker shook the hands of all the volunteers and met with some of the evacuees and first responders to tell them he was feeling for them and praying for them.
"We're all in it together. It's a real situation where wen can kind of rally around one another and try to lift the spirits of these people who have lost everything that they knew."
Hekker grew up in a family that frequently served his community in Washington. His parents were active in the community and with the local church. He said when people were in need growing up, his family was always quick to act.
"A lot of my teammates were also texting me throughout the day asking me how they could help," added Hekker. "People told me to start a GoFundMe, so I'm going to get that going as well."