By Abby Sherstan 

The Canadian Red Cross receives many calls for assistance, but this call, from one of the evacuees from the Alberta Fires in May, was a bit different.

Kim Matchem contacted the Red Cross for a teddy bear. Kim was eight months pregnant with her daughter Tenley when she was evacuated from Fort McMurray. 

“The Red Cross helped out my family and helped a lot of other families,” Kim says. “This teddy bear seems like the perfect keepsake for my daughter’s first few months.”

Kim and Tenley who holds her new teddy bearThe Canadian Red Cross offers teddy bears as a form of comfort to people impacted by disaster.
Tenley was born on May 31, 2016, in Cranbrook, B.C.

“We stayed with my mom in BC. Everyone was incredible to us; people were so generous when they heard we were from Fort McMurray,” says Kim. “We were offered a free newborn photo shoot and a gift certificate to a local baby store – people were so willing to fill any need they saw.”

Kim and her family were prepared for the evacuation process, but still experienced some stressful moments. She was separated from her husband on the road, they couldn’t get a hold of each other, and she wasn’t going to have enough gas to make it to Wandering River. 

An unlikely face helped to keep Kim calm.

“My dog really likes road trips, so he would be in the back seat smiling – he has his mouth open, with his teeth showing. I would start to freak out, and then I would just look in my rear view mirror and there he was, smiling away.”

Kim likes to call her now over six-month-old daughter her little “evac” baby. Tenley’s first few months weren’t exactly what Kim and her husband were expecting. The family spent the first month living in one room all together: mom, dad, dog, stepson, and newborn.

“It was like Little House on the Prairie,” jokes Kim. The next two months were spent in a hotel room, before returning to their own home, which was fortunately undamaged. 

The Red Cross teddy bear means a lot to Kim. She hopes it will eventually mean a lot to her daughter, too. 

“She was born in such a stressful time, and this is just a way to show her that people were looking out for her the whole way through.”