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Community Matters

Letter from the Publisher

July 1st, 2016

By Krista Balsom

I will never forget the spring of 2016. It was the first time my step-daughter Madison lived with us full-time. It was the first-time in my life I truly felt what it was to be a full-time parent. Being responsible for someone else’s life changes you, especially when for the first-time, you experience something as traumatic as evacuating and fleeing a beast - a wildfire so large it drove over 88,000 people from their homes.


My spring started when my beautiful 12-year-old step-daughter moved to Fort McMurray to live with Jason and me. I’ve been in the lives of Madison and her brother Jayden now for about four years, but for the first time, one of them would be living with us. Now I suddenly was worried about schools, homework and the everyday wellbeing
of a pre-teenageer.

I loved it. It was a thrilling new experience and I was happy to take on this new role. I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child, and with my husband Jason, and Madison and Jayden’s mom Melanie and partner Aimee, we were all working together to give these beautiful kids the best life possible.

Madison was finally settling into life at Beacon Hill School. We live in Prairie Creek and chose that school as it was nestled in the forest, had beautiful surroundings and a tight-knit, welcoming community. I never thought there would come a day that we would have to pick her up as she had to watch flames across the street from her brand-new school, and live the organized chaos that ensued with parents and faculty working diligently to get all of the students to safety.


Thankfully, Jason picked up Madison on that May 3 afternoon once I called him panicking that he should leave work and head to pick her up. We had evacuated days earlier on Sunday in the initial Prairie Creek evacuation and then were able to go home and shelter-in-place at home. We went back to our “normal” lives on Tuesday, never knowing how the day would go. Darby Allen had told us Tuesday morning that the day would be “challenging” but no one predicted just how challenging it would turn out to be.
Our family was one of the lucky ones; our home is still standing and has minimal damage. Prairie Creek was mostly saved from the terrible path thanks to the crews working so hard to save critical infrastructure and our homes.

We spent a few days at the Kennett farm near Boyle while we all waited for next steps, and then we came to our family home on Random Island, Newfoundland. The staff and students at Random Island Academy (the school both Jason and I grew up attending in our very small community) welcomed Madison with open arms and she will finish the school year there before going back to Fort McMurray for Canada Day. Thank-you to everyone who helped our family along the way, from the bottom of our hearts.


Like all parents, I don’t know what the effects of seeing what Madison did during those days will have on children in the long-term. All we can do now is think to the future, help our children cope and deal with the very scary and confusing and terrifying sights and sounds they saw and heard.


As readers of Fort McMurray’s Child Magazine, you don’t often hear from me as the publisher, but this time, I thought it was different as we commemorate the events of May 2016. I thought it was important, parent-to-parent to tell you all that I strongly believe that as hard as those days were, we will all prevail. Our kids will appreciate life and we will be there for them during this terrible time. Thanks to the incredible bravery and courage of our first responders, and the calm and safety-focused nature of our residents, we all made it out ok. Our community is resilient. It is strong. It is together. There are a lot of questions without all the answers right now. Let’s all be kind to one another. Let’s help each other. Let’s get to know our neighbours. I know that we can and will rebuild, stronger than ever.

Let’s all stay #YMMStrong forever.


Krista

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