The following article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of “The Connector”:
It was a great honour to witness the unveiling of the “Lend a Hand” monument dedicated to 2017 wildfire volunteers at Riverside Park on April 12th. The 2017 wildfires devastated our region like never before with over 65,000 people evacuated from their homes. However, the memories of this disaster are not all of loss, but they are also of community resilience.
In the face of disaster and fear, our community members sacrificed their time and talents to protect our families and friends. I have always known how strong the people of my riding were, but it was inspiring to see it in action as thousands of residents stepped forward to help.
In fact, the artists behind the new monument, Lee-Anne Chisholm and Aaron Harder of Quesnel, were among the many families who opened their homes to evacuees. The monument features the blue Thompson Rivers surrounded by trees on a tall base. On the top of the base, there are hands lifting up a Canadian maple leaf. Inside the leaf is the silhouette of a family packing belongings and walking together, to symbolize the thousands of evacuees. Looking up at the many hands lifting the shining leaf left me feeling proud of the communities in the TNRD and their constant kindness.
Over 150,000 hours were spent assisting evacuees, providing care, and donating goods. I witnessed first-hand the strong spirit of our community as we worked to assist evacuees in Kamloops. The volunteers around me showed the utmost compassion to all those needing assistance, treating everyone like family.
Despite the tragedy, we rallied together and faced the wildfires together. People came together to fight a common cause, and they left with as stronger connection to their communities. Remarkably, this spirit remained strong, as we rallied together for a second time during the 2018 wildfire effort.
The “Lend a Hand” monument perfectly captures the compassion of our communities, and it was a great pleasure to recognize the efforts of the volunteers. The wildfires were devastating to many families in the Thompson-Cariboo region, and the effects would be much worse if it wasn’t for the dedicated volunteers who not only protected our safety, but also strengthened our community.
Cathy McLeod, MP for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo