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Neighbors launch fundraising campaign to aid Des Moines woman who lost son in fire

Des Moines Register 3/28/2023 Noelle Alviz-Gransee, Des Moines Register
The house that caught on fire © Noelle Alviz-Gransee The house that caught on fire

Chance Slinger says that when he moved into his south side Des Moines neighborhood three years ago, new neighbor Joan Herriott and her son Todd greeted him with smiles and even invited him over for dinner.

Now Slinger and his fiancé Kennedy Jade Mcdonald are the ones reaching out as Joan Herriott deals with the loss of her son in a fire, setting up a GoFundMe account to help with her expenses.

"She really is just the sweetest little thing," Slinger said.

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About the fire

The Des Moines Fire Department reported that the fire occurred around 1 a.m. Thursday. Joan Herriott was in her living room in the 5500 block of S.W. Third Place when she smelled smoke and discovered the fire in her son's room. She made it out of the home with her dogs uninjured.

Fire Capt. Chris Clement said firefighters extinguished the fire and found Todd Herriott, 53. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Who was Todd Herriott?

According to his obituary, Herriott was an educator who worked as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ youth and people with disabilities and had "the magical ability to connect in meaningful ways with anyone he met." His LinkedIn page says he was an Iowa State University graduate who served as director of disability services at ISU before moving on to similar positions at Simmons University in Boston and Dominican University of California.

"He was kind and deeply generous. He invested his time to help people that needed support. He loved animals and nature. He loved learning new things and great conversations," the obituary said. "He was an off-the-charts amazing cook and baker. He was an incredible artist of many mediums. He was a phenomenal dancer and loved music of many genres."

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Slinger said Herriott was most recently employed at Wells Fargo and was working from his mother's home while serving as her primary caretaker as she faced medical issues.

The need for donations

Slinger said Joan Herriott has few resources, and he set up the GoFundMe account to help take care of the funeral expenses for her son as well as her living expenses. He said she currently is staying with her other son in Waukee.

"I put the goal together for ten grand, and that was really just to kind of take care of as much of the little stuff as I can," he said.

As of early Monday, the account had reached $4,440.

"She does not have much, but her heart is gold," Slinger said in a post on the site. "I ask you good people of Iowa and Des Moines to please help as much as you can."

Donations may be made at Joan Needs Help! at

Noelle Alviz-Gransee is a breaking news reporter at the Des Moines Register. Follow her on Twitter @NoelleHannika or email her at

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Neighbors launch fundraising campaign to aid Des Moines woman who lost son in fire

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