While Vernon fire crews investigate the cause of a house fire that displaced a mother and her two children, local organizations are gifting the family a small escape from reality.
Emma, a Vernon resident and single mother, was renting the house on 35th Avenue and 13th Street, across the street from Silver Star Elementary School. Her family’s worldly possessions were lost to the blaze on Thursday afternoon, but that same night two women with connections to children’s organizations in the city were making plans to replace some of those lost items.
A total of $600 was donated to the family – $300 from House of Dwarfs Daycare matched by Vernon Teach and Learn. The money is to pay for a toy shopping spree so that the family can replace, as best they can, the kids’ childhood toys that went up in flames.
Sherry Lynn Morrical lives in the same neighbourhood as Emma, and as the director of House of Dwarfs Daycare, she wasted no time in offering up the donation for the family, wanting the kids to have their toy replacements as soon as possible.
“They can go shopping as early as this morning if they need to,” said Morrical on Friday, having already coordinated a donation pickup with the mother and Teach and Learn through a friend of the family.
Morrical works with young children daily. She watches them slip into their own world during play, and understands the importance of children having possessions of their own.
“I know that children need to have personal items around them in order to calm themselves if they need to occupy themselves, take their mind off of what’s happened,” she says.
“Kids need play to release stress and find comfort, and just basically take away from reality and go into their little make-believe world for a while.”
Morrical hopes that that favourite blanket, or stuffy, or doll – whatever item means most to them – can be in some way recouped with the money.
“I can still remember favourite toys that I had when I was little, and with a little luck they’ll have some duplicates in the store that will help them feel like they didn’t completely lose everything.”
The idea to donate came to Morrical via a Facebook post from Tarrin Nell, a friend of the family in need who has spearheaded a collection to provide the family with clothing and furniture for when they find a new place to reside, as well as food and hygiene products for the short term.
Nell has been encouraged by Vernon’s generosity in the past, and says the community’s kindness has only been reinforced in her mind since the house fire.
“I’m born and raised here and Vernon is an absolutely outstanding community,” she said. “We’ve seen it year after year with different kinds of tragedies how Vernon pulls together, and I’m excited for Emma’s family that she’s going to see what that community is. Already there has been so much outreach.”
A GoFundMe page was started for the family the night of the fire. So far it’s raised just over half of its $10,000 goal, and Emma has chosen to pass on 20 per cent of the donations to the two teenage boys who were renting the basement of the home and also lost their possessions.
Tarrin plans to drop off some material donations to the family Saturday. She lauded Morrical and the Vernon Teach and Learn for the part they’ve done in supporting the family she’s gotten to know through her daughter, who goes to school with Emma’s daughter.
“The’ve always been absolutely outstanding – their staff is amazing,” she said of Vernon Teach and Learn. “And I’ve known Sherry for many years now and what she does for this community and how she treats every one of the parents and the kids who go into that daycare is amazing.”
And as much as it hurts Nell to see a friend in such unfortunate circumstances, Emma’s resilience stands as a source of optimism.
“Considering everything, Emma’s attitude was very strong, she said ‘it took me three years to build this all up and I’m just going to have to start again.’”
“It’s going to be a whirlwind of emotions for them, but from what I saw (Thursday night) they’re just being really strong and brave.”