GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - "Devastating. It just feels like home, you know, so it's really hard," said Cortney Huffman as she broke into tears.
On Monday, Huffman watched flames race through Gatlinburg, a place where she went camping as a child and her own family often visited. The Gulfport family just spent their Fourth of July holiday there.
"We found certain cabins that we liked, and [it] just became a tradition. Once or twice a year, we go up," Huffman said.
Her children, Sadie and Grayson, have many fond memories of time spent in the resort city.
"It was very upsetting and sad, because Dollywood is there, a lot of hotels, and a lot of people live there," said 9-year-old Sadie.
"It's just sad to hear that a place I loved so much has burned down," said 10-year-old Grayson added.
Cortney's husband Dave is a Gulfport High School teacher. The couple decided to hold a district-wide collection drive to help the fire victims and first responders in Gatlinburg. They reached out through social media to spread the message.
"I brought these peanut bars and these red Powerade," said 8-year-old Reed Bodenhammer.
When asked how he felt, Reed replied, "Sorry for the people who live in Gatlinburg, and I wanted to help the fire department."
The Huffmans are trying to collect as many bottles of water, sports drinks, and protein snacks as possible by the end of Friday.
"You should help anytime, but especially now. You have kids that don't have anything now and families who have nothing, and it's very sad," said Cortney.
Donations may be dropped off at Anniston Elementary, Gulfport High, or Bayou View Elementary Schools. The Huffmans are reaching out to a Coast man who has two trailers to help deliver the supplies on Saturday.