Shelby Bertrand (left) organized an adult prom fundraiser on Valentine’s Day. All the money raised was split among three families who lost their homes in an early December fire in Bath, including her younger brother, Gared Bertrand (right). Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record 

BATH — Gared Bertrand of Bath said he has always regretted skipping his high school prom. And while he got a second chance, he wishes the circumstances were different.

Gared Bertrand and two other families lost their home in a fire in early December. Shelby Bertrand, Gerard Bertrand’s older sister, organized a fundraiser fit for Valentine’s Day: a prom for adults.

All the money raised was split among the three families who lived in the apartment building at 32/34 Rose St. in Bath that caught fire at 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 2, 2019.

Sgt. Joel Davis told The Times Record last December the fire started on an outside first-floor porch on the rear of the building and was most likely caused by the improper disposal of smoking material, such as cigarettes.

“My girlfriend, Julie, was the one who found the fire because she was getting ready to leave for work,” said Gared Bertrand. “She started stomping her feet and yelling, ‘Fire!’ I woke up out of a dead sleep and jumped out of bed.”

Gared Bertrand said he roused up his upstairs neighbor and made sure he and his dog were able to get out of the building safely. He remembered to take his phone outside, but nothing else, including his coat.

“By the time the firefighters were done with it, the whole back half of the building was open and the firefighters had to pull down the ceiling to make sure the fire was completely out,” he said. “Even if something wasn’t burned, it was black or smelled like burning plastic or had water damage. Nothing was any good.”

Robin and Will Wharff of West Bath said they took the event as an opportunity to relive the ’80s, complete with fingerless gloves and a powder blue suit. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

For the past two months, Gared Bertrand bounced between family members in West Bath and Portland while working two or three jobs to save money for a new home. He and his girlfriend signed the papers on a small house in Bath last week.

He said he’s most excited about having a place his two sons can come when they’re not with their mother.

“We’re looking forward to starting fresh,” he said.

Shelby Bertrand said she drew inspiration for the fundraiser from her son, who will attend his senior prom this year, and the movie “Footloose.”

“Shelby said, ‘What about an adult prom?’ and I said, ‘What about you’re crazy,’” said Mike Benner, Shelby Bertrand’s fiance and owner of Twisted Iron Customs, which sponsored the event.

Shelby Bertland said she wanted to make the event about having fun instead of focusing on what people wear or if they bring a date. This came as welcome news for Gerad Bertrand, who skipped his high school prom but later regretted it.

“You typically only do that stuff once and a lot of times you don’t realize you should’ve gone until it passes,” said Gared Bertrand. “I think I was in too much of a hurry to grow up.”

With a free photographer and DJ, Shelby Bertrand said community members donated their time and resources to help people in their time of need. Her fundraising goal for the night was $2,000.

“I haven’t always been the closest with my sister, so this has been an eye-opener,” Gared Bertrand said. “This has shown me how anyone will do anything for a sibling … all I can say is thank you.”

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