CINCINNATI — The family of Terry Nelson, the former University of Cincinnati basketball star turned color commentator for the team, suffered a devastating loss last month when their Atlanta condo caught fire, leaving eight people injured.
From the ashes of that fire rose a story of hope as his family, hundreds of miles away, felt the love and support of generous donors in Greater Cincinnati.
Flames overtook the family condo in mid-December, forcing eight of Nelson's family members, including his 76-year-old mother, to escape by jumping from a third story window.
"You see your mom and sister on the ground. Fire trucks everywhere. You see this big blaze. In an instant, you think of how precious life is,” Nelson told WCPO.
All eight were injured from the fall, as Nelson described the pain he felt back in Cincinnati.
"It was painful to say the least, just to think about it, knowing you can't do anything,” he said.
Not long after, he made it a goal to find a way to help his family rebuild.
"I gotta get into the mindset of, ‘how can I take care of this before they get out?’ Because it's my responsibility for my family,” Nelson said.
That's where the people of Greater Cincinnati came in -- more than $50,000 has been raised via GoFundMe directly benefiting the family. Nelson said they were able to use the funds to rent two homes upfront for a year.
What started as one storage unit of donations ended up with three, thanks to the generosity of folks from across the Tri-State.
"It was more furniture, and more furniture. I had to basically do the Heisman and say, ‘that's cool for right now,’" he said.
Blown away by the support, Nelson shared his gratitude.
"People of Cincinnati, thank you so much. My family couldn't do it on their own,” he said.
He knows the burns and injuries his family has suffered will ultimately heal. What's left behind is a tragedy which turned into an unexpected blessing.
"The love that people have shown them, the gratitude everyone has that I'm planning a rebuild, and not a funeral -- mass funeral,” he said. “That's something I live with all day.”
His mother will be out of rehab next week, and his niece has three more weeks to go. Find more information on donating to their cause here.