Steff and Mike O’Neill and their family drove a truckload of donations to Alberta.

Campbell River comes together to help Fort Mac

Locals pitching in

When four-year-old Brooklyn O’Handley learned that kids in Fort McMurray had lost their toys in the fire, she started crying. Once she had her tears under control, she decided to help.

Last Saturday and Sunday she sat on her driveway selling lemonade and cookies all afternoon.

“For a lemonade stand I’m very surprised at how good she did,” said proud mom Sasha with a laugh. “My lemonade stands were never like that.”

With a little bit of advertising on social media from mom, and a promise to donate all of the proceeds to the fire victims, Brooklyn sold enough lemonade and cookies to bring in just over $100.

So far Brooklyn is the youngest fundraiser the Mirror has come across but she is not the only Campbell Riverite dedicated to the cause of helping residents of the northern Alberta city who fled the huge forest fire that burned parts of the city to the ground and displaced more than 80,000 people. Campbell River has a connection with the city either through relatives and former neighbours who left this community to find work after the closure of the Elk Falls pulp mill or who work there but maintain their homes here.

Kyla May, a local hairstylist, is cutting hair. She wants to direct all of the proceeds towards the rebuilding of the treatment and detox centre in Fort McMurrary that her sister, who is a resident of the now evacuated city, said burned to the ground. May said she thinks centres like this will become even more important as people deal with the stress of rebuilding the city.

For other locals, raising money isn’t enough.

Adam Sorenson packed up his holiday trailer and left for northern Alberta on Tuesday morning. He said he had a garage full of donated items.

Sorenson’s brother, sister-in-law and nephews live in Fort McMurray. Since being evacuated, they met a family whose house has burned down. The family will be using Sorenson’s holiday trailer for the time being.

Sorenson has found support everywhere he turns. Not only is BC Ferries giving him a free pass to the mainland, they have also collected gift cards from their staff that they are sending along with him. Another person donated a Petro Canada card to help cover gas expenses for the trip.

Sorenson is planning on taking the donations to the towns north of Edmonton where evacuees are waiting to hear when they can return to the city.

He is also taking some of the goods collected by the team at Bill Howich Chrysler. In another week or so the dealership is loading a semi-trailer, donated by Geoff and Shannon from Quality Designs in Campbell River and Gene from Orlicks Inc. in Calgary, and sending the rest of the donations they collect to Alberta.

“We just started collecting stuff on Friday and it’s just overwhelming the response we have seen from the community,” said Alex Roelants, the receptionist at Bill Howich Chrysler. “It’s an Alberta thing but it’s also a Campbell River thing because so many people work out there.”

The dealership has a truck parked in front of Superstore where shoppers can donate groceries. As of Monday, Roelants said they don’t know exactly where they are going to send the donations, but they are going to contact emergency centres and foodbanks to make a plan before they send the driver out.

It’s not just individuals who are spearheading fundraising efforts.

Barb Izard, a teacher at Timberline Secondary, is getting the whole school district on board. The fundraiser officially started on Monday and she is expecting the classes to get creative.

“One Grade 9 student walked in with $40,” she said. “Every one of these students is affected. They either know someone or they are personally affected.”

Meanwhile, White Spot is donating $2 from every burger platter or combo sale today to the Canadian Red Cross.

Yet other businesses are filling more specific needs. For residents or employees who may have left behind their glasses or contacts in Fort McMurray, FYidoctors is offering a free pair of prescription glasses, a small supply of contacts and a free prescription check if needed.

The Mirror’s own parent company, BlackPress has a crowd funding page – BlackPress4Good – where readers can donate to the Red Cross.