I teared up both times I watched it, and probably would again if I went back for a third viewing.  The "it" I'm referring to is the third part of a Global Edmonton series on Fort McMurray called Land of Opportunity, hosted by fellow Twitterite Vassy Kapelos.

After the first episode on Monday night, which was uncharacteristically balanced and leaning more to the positive side, I was fully prepared for us to be slammed the next day.  It didn't happen.  Episode two focused on some of the challenges, but really provided a balanced perspective.

The third part in the series zeroed in on a story of kindness, of Lily, a young girl from Chilliwack diagnosed with a scary form of brain cancer.

"The prognosis was scarier," said Vassy in the 3-minute feature.

"In an adult you have about a 14-week life span," said the mother Chelsey.  "The children have a little bit more of a chance, but it's still not great."

The family has spent a month at the hospital, putting their life on hold, an expensive proposition for any of us.  A family friend from Fort McMurray, Becca Hess, decided to do something about it.  Working as a bartender at the Podollon Pub, Becca organized an event to raise money for Lily.

"I thought it up on Sunday night," said Hess.  "I sent out the emails on Monday morning."  It took her five days to pull together - waitresses gave up their tips, patrons bid on a silent auction - and they raised more than $10,000.

The most remarkable thing: not a single person who contributed has ever ever met baby Lily or her family.

"Per person, no other community gives more to charity that Fort McMurray," stated Vassy.  It is a fact that those of us who live in the community know; it is a fact that is becoming more widely known thanks to people like Vassy.

"It's one thing getting charity from your family," said Chelsey, "but complete strangers?  Thank you."

"They can be assured that the big spirit of Fort McMurray is behind their big girl."

Kindness is a powerful thing. It has the ability to fortify, embrace, and inspire, lifting spirits teetering on the edge of despair.

My father has not been well. As I type this I am 12 hours away from my Fort McMurray home in the home of my youth, back in town along with all my brothers and sisters to be by my father's side as he undergoes the first major surgery of his life.

Kind words offered on Facebook, by email and in person have been gratefully received, each and every one hitting home with the warmth in which they were offered.

As human beings we have a great capacity for kindness. I live in a state of gratefulness that we are surrounded by caring friends, colleagues, acquaintances and citizens.


  1. Accepting the kindness of others is a blessing returned. Much love for you and your family Russell as you move through this.

  2. Hard times Russell, hope your father will recover soon. We are in the same boat right now, its heartbreaking seeing your parents suffer.


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