Anne Marie Benoit and Paul Dorman have both had their lives touched by fire.
Forty years ago Benoit’s brother died in a fire trying to save a little girl, and seven years ago Dorman had his house burn down.
When they watched the fires happening in the interior from their home in Nanaimo, it brought up memories for them.
“We felt compelled to help,” says Benoit.
“When it started, and then it got worse and worse and worse — people losing their homes. We thought let’s go and donate money,” says Dorman.
He recalls standing in front of his house after it burned, with his two granddaughters who were looking for their toys, saying that he would have to rebuild. The memory of that has pushed him to help.
Between Dorman and Benoit, they estimate they “walked 100 miles” trying to collect donations from businesses and people in their community.
They raised about $1,200 in nickels and dimes from people around the area, and then decided they would start taking donations as well.
Canvassing businesses around Vancouver Island, from Value Village to a health foods store, the two collected everything from toys, to clothing, to strollers and even nutritional yeast.
“We thought, let’s give to the children,” says Dorman, and the two connected with the Child Development Centre who invited them to their yearly Christmas Wish Breakfast on Dec. 5, where the centre raises money and toy donations for children.
The two spoke with Budget Rental, who donated a truck for them to transport the donations to Willliams Lake. BC Ferries also donated the ferry passage to cross to Vancouver. They then travelled north to Williams Lake, along highways they’d never taken before.
The Child Development Centre collects toys and donations yearly for communities and schools to chose from to help families be able to give gifts at Christmas time. Dorman and Benoit are hoping their donations can reach those who were most affected by the wildfires.
“I hope we can make a difference. The transaction that we are doing shows that we can all help each other in British Columbia,” says Benoit. “It’s part of life, helping each other.”