Devastating wildfires bring new friends together

Imagine having to gather your family and pack only the most essential items into your car before driving away from your home, not knowing if it would be there when you returned. That is the reality for many British Columbia residents, including Bonnie Netzlaw, who was evacuated from 100 Mile House.

Bonnie and her family drove all through the night, arriving in Prince George as the sun rose the following morning. She has come to the Red Cross information and registration centre in Prince George for interim assistance.

“I’m quickly overcome by emotions right now,” Bonnie says as she wraps a Red Cross blanket around herself. “My priorities were to get my family out; I didn’t even think to grab a sweater.”

Bonnie meets with a Red Cross worker in Prince George
Bonnie is instantly likable when you meet her. She doesn’t take herself too seriously and even though she’s going through something unimaginable, she still makes jokes and tries to lighten the situation for everyone around her. If that weren’t enough, she is also looking out for fellow evacuee, Heidi Baumert.

Heidi in her new wheelchair delivered by Red Cross with her friend BonnieHeidi had recently undergone leg surgery when she was evacuated from a hospital in Williams Lake. After arriving at a lodging site in Prince George, she had no way to access mobility aids to help her get around. Never having met before, Bonnie came to the rescue, driving Heidi around town and making sure she had anything she might need. “We have to pull together,” Bonnie says when praised for her kindness. “We’re a family now.”

While meeting with the Red Cross, Bonnie alerted them to her new friends’ situation. The Red Cross quickly mobilized their Health Equipment Loan Program and delivered Heidi a wheelchair with elevating leg rests, which will help her as she recovers from surgery, and means that she doesn’t have to stay in a hospital.

The two plan to test out Heidi’s new wheels by heading down the street to celebrate Heidi’s late husbands’ birthday with some good food and even better company.

“We’re going to be friends long after this,” Bonnie says. “I will drive from 100 Mile to Williams Lake to check on her when we finally get home.”

The best way Canadians can support those impacted by the British Columbia Wildfires is by making a financial donation to the BC Wildfires Appeal online, by calling 1-800-418-1111, or by visiting their local Red Cross office.

The Health Equipment Loan Program is a community-based service that loans a variety of health equipment to people coping with illness or injury. 
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