By Louise Frazer

No doubt you have seen the gripping scenes of terror as people fled Fort McMurray to escape the raging inferno. Far away, 3000 km away, a homeschool mom, Cathy, and her family were riveted as they watched the camera footage of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary disaster. As they watched, Cathy found herself asking what she would do in their place and wondered particularly how homeschool families there were faring.

As she pondered what she would do if her family suddenly had to leave home, with possibly no home to return to later, Cathy was deeply moved, and knew she wanted to do something to show them others care. Cathy says, “We see this footage after the fact. The terror must have been horrific. It’s a miracle that most got out alive!” Cathy points out that not only have they been forced from their homes, lost their possessions, and left their jobs, but they also don’t even know what they will have to face when they return. Watching the footage galvanized her into action.

Cathy is empathy personified: compassion with hands and feet. Not content to sit by and wring her hands, she wanted concrete action that would show Fort McMurray that others care. She also firmly believes in teaching her children to reach out. “I wanted my kids to do something, not just go get their piggy banks.”

So Cathy contacted the Red Cross to organize a skip-a-thon at her local homeschool co-op. Her children made signs which she posted on Facebook. Next, she googled “Fort McMurray homeschooling” and found a support group with two emails and sent them messages telling about the planned skip-a-thon. She says that most of all, she wanted them to know that “People out here care and are praying for them.”

What was the reaction of these newly-found fellow homeschoolers? Cathy continues, “They were very touched that people so far away actually even looked them up and thought about them. I didn’t realize how much it would mean to them. The message I wanted to give them was they were not alone.”

Cathy has mobilized dozens of homeschool families to participate.  She says she plans to make it fun, with motivating music playing while they skip and healthy refreshments afterwards. Families have been given a form with name, address, and amount of the donation for receipt purposes, and will ask sponsors for donations before the event. Parents are welcome to join in, too. Cathy will bring the total amount collected directly to the local Red Cross, which will see that it is channeled to Fort McMurray residents.

In parting, Cathy throws out a challenge to other homeschoolers to organize something similar. The Red Cross makes it easy to organize, and the federal government will match all donations for Fort McMurray if they are in by May 31. Are you up for the challenge?