Fort Myers burn victim receives help from the local community

Reporter: Morgan Rynor
Published: Updated:

We first introduced our readers to Thelma Shelby when she returned home after months in the hospital.

“I can’t do it no more,” Shelby said, as she was physically and mentally recovering from an arson attack.

“When I saw, it brought us to our knees and tears,” Leigh Piscetelli said. “We’re like, ‘we need to help Thelma.'”

Piscetelli saw Shelby’s story on WINK News.

On Sept. 18, Thelma Shelby suffered severe burns to her body when Terry Palmer, a friend of Shelby’s daughter, poured gasoline on her and set her on fire. Shelby spent three months of healing at a burn unit at a Tampa hospital.

Meanwhile, the judge charged Palmer with arson of first degree and arson with great bodily harm. But even with him in prison, Shelby was still terrified of leaving her home after being released from the hospital.

Piscetelli got in contact with her after hours of persistent effort following the airing of Shelby’s story.

“I said she needs clothes,” Piscetelli said, as tears trickled down her face. “I said because if you look at the news story, she had all tight clothes on. When you’re a burn victim, you need loose moo moos.”

She got to work right away reaching out to local charities like Eva’s Closet.

Among a pile of envelopes with cash collected from neighbors for Shelby. Photo via WINK News.
Among a pile of envelopes with cash collected from neighbors for Shelby. Photo via WINK News.

“Leigh contacted us to ask if maybe we could provide some clothing,” Jessica Goodall said, “so that she could go and get some new items.”

But it did not stop there.

She advocated on Shelby’s behalf with several places, such as Harry Chapin Food Bank, churches, and community members. A GoFundMe campaign was also setup in Thema Shelby’s name.

“Boy we got it going on, boy!” Shelby said. “Everything is stacked in the freezer ready for Thanksgiving Thursday!”

Shelby still has a long road of recovery ahead of her, but the outreached clearly moved her at a time when she was at a low point in her life.

“It means a lot,” Shelby said. “Like she’s my best friend. Somebody that I ain’t ever known in my life.”

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.