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The kindness of strangers

Four days before the evacuation order was issued for the town of Williams Lake, Danny and Leeyann Allan made the decision to leave their home and head up to Prince George. Smoke in town was getting thick and Leeyann, who at the time was undergoing cancer treatments, was concerned if they waited she may not feel well enough to travel later.

The couple made their way to New Caledonia College, where they registered with the Canadian Red Cross. For the next four weeks, Danny and Leeyann stayed in their camper trailer parked on a friends’ property just outside of the city. They have since made their way home to Williams Lake, but Danny says that the kindness he’s experienced during the evacuation will be with him for a long time to come.

Evacuees in Prince George were provided with wristbands upon registration. When restaurants saw evacuees with these wristbands, they gave them 50 per cent off their meals. One night while eating at a seafood restaurant, another couple Danny and Leeyann spoke to about their evacuation paid for their meal without telling them. Eager to “pay it forward,” they made sure to pay for the meal of a group of firefighters he saw a few days later.

The Allan’s were fortunate to have very little clean up when they returned home; their house didn’t smell of smoke and they hadn’t lost power. Even still, being outside of your home for four weeks can take its toll emotionally and financially.

In addition to the basic financial assistance provided by the Red Cross, the Allan’s also received assistance for their food and gas, which Danny says “blew me away”. While visiting the Resiliency Centre in Williams Lake, Danny also had the chance to catch up with some of the Red Cross volunteers he’d met in Prince George, which gave him a chance to “give them a second hug and say thanks.”

The Allan’s returned to Prince George a few weeks later for Leeyann’s final chemotherapy treatment, which she’s had been receiving at the BC Cancer Agency since they were evacuated. The couple is extremely grateful to the cancer centre in Prince George for how well they’ve taken care of Leeyann. To show solidarity with his wife while she underwent her treatments, Danny shaved his head.

Looking back at the last several weeks, Danny calls his experience “once in a lifetime” and says it has given him a “new perspective on the organizations [like the Red Cross] and how much they do.” As they move forward, the Allan’s will resume their normal routines, but will remember the help they received.

As Danny says, “The Red Cross is going to be in my heart forever.”
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