CAPE CORAL, Fla. (WSVN) — A group of people in Southwest Florida who met in a time of adversity came together to celebrate Christmas.
These families may have different last names, but they came together as one in Cape Coral to celebrate Christmas.
Friday night’s gathering was hosted by Kevin Ott, the man who saved these people’s lives after Hurricane Ian battered the Sunshine State’s southwest region.
“Thanks to Kevin, I’m able to be here for Christmas,” said Mary Ann Dineen. “I’m also gonna be able to see my new grand baby born in February.”
As the powerful storm swept through the area, Ott hopped into his boat and navigated through floodwaters in order to reach his children’s grandparents.
Along the way, he encountered several people whose lives were in danger.
One of them was Sam Zemaitis.
“My angel came down the street in a boat, Kevin, and you know, I screamed bloody murder, ‘Hey, get over here,’” said Zemaitis.
Zemaitis helped Ott save a couple and their toddler.
“He said, ‘I can only take two of you. I said, ‘Take the baby and the mommy,’” said Zemaitis.
Ott found a way to fit everyone on his boat. In total, he saved 12 lives on that day in September.
Now these survivors call themselves an extended family. They broke bread together for Thanksgiving and gathered to do it again just before Christmas.
“It’s a real blessing to see all my kids together with our survivors to get to meet who we fixed and who we helped,” said Ott.
“So they are Kevin and family. They are part of our family; they come to our school functions,” said Kristin Millar.
It’s a family not related by blood, but rather by experience, and it’s something they plan to cherish for the rest of their lives.
“This is like a new family that I have, and if I didn’t show my kids all these other people, they would never know who they are,” said Ott, “’cause it’s not just a person we picked up; it’s a person that now we get to share family times, dinners, phone calls, emails, Facebook. We get everything together, so it makes a big difference in my kids’ lives.”
Everyone who attended said the dinner put them in the holiday spirit, and they were grateful to have each other.
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texasstandard.news contributed to this report.