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Pirates deliver surprise early Christmas to Bellevue family displaced by fire

Natasha Lindstrom
| Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, 12:48 a.m.
Amelia Cobbs, 4, reacts after opening presents delivered by members of the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Amelia Cobbs, 4, reacts after opening presents delivered by members of the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Gwen Cobbs, 1, peers out the window of the Salvation Army in Bellevue as her family awaits a surprise from members of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Gwen Cobbs, 1, peers out the window of the Salvation Army in Bellevue as her family awaits a surprise from members of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Members of the Pittsburgh Pirates surprise the Cobbs family with presents at a Salvation Army in Bellevue. (Trib photo)
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Members of the Pittsburgh Pirates surprise the Cobbs family with presents at a Salvation Army in Bellevue. (Trib photo)
Pittsburgh Pirate Clay Holmes, left, and Steven Brault, right, surprise the Cobbs family with presents at a Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Pirate Clay Holmes, left, and Steven Brault, right, surprise the Cobbs family with presents at a Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Destin Cobbs, 6, gets help putting batteries in his new remote control monster truck during a surprise visit from the Pittsburgh Pirates at a Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Destin Cobbs, 6, gets help putting batteries in his new remote control monster truck during a surprise visit from the Pittsburgh Pirates at a Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Members of the Pittsburgh Pirates surprise the Cobbs family with presents at a Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Members of the Pittsburgh Pirates surprise the Cobbs family with presents at a Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Jason Cobbs helps his daughter, Gwen, open presents delivered by the Pittsburgh Pirates at a Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Jason Cobbs helps his daughter, Gwen, open presents delivered by the Pittsburgh Pirates at a Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Steven Brault helps with Drake Cobbs' new stuffed animal at a Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Steven Brault helps with Drake Cobbs' new stuffed animal at a Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Gwen Cobbs, 1, checks out Jalapeno Hanna, one of the Pirate Pierogies, after opening gifts delivered by two Pittsburgh Pirates at the Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Gwen Cobbs, 1, checks out Jalapeno Hanna, one of the Pirate Pierogies, after opening gifts delivered by two Pittsburgh Pirates at the Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Members of the Pittsburgh Pirates begin to pack up following their delivery of gifts to the Cobbs family at a Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Members of the Pittsburgh Pirates begin to pack up following their delivery of gifts to the Cobbs family at a Salvation Army in Bellevue on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.

The fire that ripped through their Bellevue house last month wreaked havoc on the Cobbs family, who made it out safely without any injuries but lost most of their belongings as well as their home.

Sarah and Jason Cobbs were especially worried about the tumultuous transition dampening the spirits of their six children just before Christmas.

“The kids were worried that Santa wasn't going to find them, or that he wouldn't know where to look because our house was smoky and boarded up,” said Cobbs, 32.

On Wednesday, Christmas came early for the family.

The parents had told their children, ages 1 to 10, that they would be handing out presents to a family in need at the Salvation Army North Boroughs.

Little did they know, they were the family who would be getting the presents delivered by celebrity guests — several players and coaches from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Hayden, 10, was the first to spot the Pirates bus pulling up on the side of the street while looking out the window. Out stepped several players, coaches and two giant Pirates pierogies.

“They're coming this way!” Hayden said as she let out a high-pitched squeal and pumped her fists in the air.

“I'm going to faint guys; I'm fainting,” chimed in 8-year-old Drake.

The players and coaches carried with them large sacks filled with wrapped presents and began to distribute one to each child.

“This stuff is for our family?” Hayden cried out. Her mom nodded yes and she squealed again and rushed to give her a tight hug.

Moments later, Pirates players helped the children tear open their presents and assemble everything from remote control race cars to a mask of “The Hulk” to an Elsa “Frozen” doll and matching elbow pads.

“To see the smiles and the joy on the kids' faces, it's just not something you can really replace,” Pirates pitcher Clay Holmes said. “To be able to give back and help the kids and family in need is just a special experience.”

Hayden is the oldest child and has five siblings: Drake, 10, Destin, 6, Amelia, 4, Fiona, 2, and Gwen, 1.

“I hope they remember it as a positive time in their life through all the adversity they're are going through right now,” said newly installed Pirates assistant pitching coach Justin Meccage.

The Nov. 5 fire that destroyed the Cobbs' home began in the basement and spread quickly. Sarah and Jason Cobbs were upstairs cleaning when they heard the smoke alarms go off and began to see wisps of smoke and soot seeping through the base boards.

They rushed upstairs to get their 1- and 2-year-olds to safety by heading out a separate second-floor stairway exit.

The four other children were at church with their grandma, Sue Evans, 62.

“It was just surreal just standing there and seeing the smoke start to come out,” Sarah Cobbs said. “The hardest part to watch was when they started cutting holes in the roof and breaking all the windows.”

Bellevue Fire Marshal Lt. Jeff Wissner said the cause of the fire was not determined.

The charity event, a collaboration by the Pirates and The Salvation Army, was part of an annual Pirates Charities Care-A-Van tradition.

“The players enjoy it; the fans enjoy it; it's just a great time, and we love it,” Pirates spokeswoman Jona DeChellis said. “It's our favorite event of the year.”

About 15 to 20 players will participate in a total of three Care-A-Van stops this week, with one in Butler on Thursday and another in Erie on Friday.

“You have to help the community,” Pirates pitcher Felipe Rivero said. “We know they're big fans of us, so this is just a little way to give back to them and give them some love.”

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, nlindstrom@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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