Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fire Fighters, Radio Hosts, and Community

At this time of year thoughts turn to friends and family, joy and peace. Of course they also turn to shopping mall mayhem, parking lot chaos, and credit card debt. This year, though, my thoughts have turned to something else. They have turned to community, and to those in it who are in need. This year more than any other these thoughts have started to dominate my free time, and it's because of time spent at places like the Fort McMurray Food Bank and the Centre of Hope. And those thoughts are why a video posted on Facebook made me cry this week.

The video was posted on the page of local radio personality Jerry Neville, someone I have come to know over the past few months. Jerry and his girlfriend Jen have become some of my favourite Fort Mac people - relatively new to town they have embraced it, and the people in it. I often find them at events, sometimes as part of the radio stations they work for, but often as volunteers, too. They are out there getting involved in the community, and it makes me so very happy. Added to this they are just genuinely kind people, so it's easy to like them.

This week Jerry posted a video. It was about the Fort McMurray Fire Fighters, a group of people who run into burning buildings when everyone else is running out (and who look damn fine in a uniform, too - sorry, have I mentioned my weakness for men in uniforms?!?). You'd think their job alone is enough to make them heroes, and in my mind it is - but they don't stop there. Oh no, that's only part of their heroism. The other part is how they raise money in the community by doing things like a rooftop camp-out at Paddy McSwiggin's, and like a calendar (mmmm, fire fighters in calendars - sorry, got distracted there for a moment!). And then they take this money and give it away, to things like Muscular Dystrophy research. And this week? Well, this week they gave $10,000 to a place that has become very special to me - The Centre of Hope. That humble little blue building on Franklin, the wonderful people who work in it, and, most importantly, it's patrons, have become a touchstone in my life this year. They taught me that everyone has a story worth sharing with the world. The Centre of Hope helped me find my Christmas spirit this year, it showed me true hope and compassion in action, and it opened both my heart and my mind. So, when I saw the video Jerry posted I cried.

I cried because I'm not the only one touched by what The Centre of Hope does. I cried because of fire fighters who not only risk their lives for us as part of their jobs but also spend their free time raising money for our community. I cried because of people like Jerry who come to this city and who get involved to try to make it a better place. And I cried because of what this community has come to mean to me personally. Sometimes I see all the strings tied together - the fire fighters that I already consider community heroes even without their volunteer service, the places like The Centre of Hope, the people like those who work in our non-profit groups, and people like Jerry - and I am simply overwhelmed with a sense of community.

This is why I fight for Fort McMurray. This is why I defend it against negative media. And this is why I write this blog - because I want to share with the world that this little place, this place so often misunderstood and so often maligned, is special. It is no different than every other community in this country, and yet it is different, too - it's different because it is mine. It's my community. It's my home, and I'm proud of it - and of all those who call it home, too.

My sincere thanks to Jerry Neville for
posting this video, to The Centre of Hope
for all they do - and to the Fort McMurray Fire 
Fighters who risk their lives for all of us -
and yet even then choose to do just a little bit more, too.

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