By Jane Deacon
At the entranceway of Deanna Tretiak’s High River home sits a group of bags filled with clothes and an armful of hockey sticks propped up next to the front door. Along with a sign that reads “Hope for High River Teens” in her living room window, this collection of donations that has arrived within a few hours gives a small indication of what is assembled inside.
Tretiak has turned her home into the headquarters of Hope for High River Teens, a flood-relief initiative. While evacuated from her home, she began brainstorming ways she could give back to High River once she returned to the town. Thinking that many teens have bedrooms and rec rooms in basements, she wanted to do something to provide flood support specifically to the local youth community who may have lost everything.
“Most teens, their bedrooms are in the basement,” said Tretiak. “So when we talk about total devastation in people’s basements, we’re talking about teens most times — either their bedrooms or rec rooms where they house all their stuff, all of the things from their childhoods.”
After returning to her home with her husband and children three weeks after the flood hit, she was relieved to see their home was designated “green” and had not been hit by sewer backup. The next day she started the “Hope for High River Teens” Facebook group and began collecting donations of clothes, books, toys and gifts cards to provide to local youth.
The response was immediate, starting with friends and neighbours offering whatever they had to give. Jason McCauley of High River Sobeys was one of the first to jump on the bandwagon, offering $10 gift cards for services like iTunes. It quickly snowballed from there with donation offers coming in from across Alberta.
Two weeks later, Tretiak is amazed by the response. She estimates she has received donations from at least 60 people and has had to dedicate three rooms in her house to storage. One acts as a space where teens and youth can come to pick out anything they might need, with clothes, books and toys neatly organized by size and gender. The other two rooms house donations that are yet to be sorted, with bags and boxes nearly reaching the ceiling.
“So many people have been so generous that it allows us to really be able to provide some good things to the kids,” said Tretiak. “I can’t say enough about the people who have supported it and got on board.”
In addition to the “shop,” Tretiak also sponsors teens who have been referred to her by putting out a call on Facebook for donations specific to that individual’s age, gender and areas of interest.
She estimates Hope for High River Teens has helped over 100 people locally and currently has 35 “adoptable” teens, with more calls come in every day.
Youth and teens are a community Tretiak feels connected to through her work with the Fury in the Foothills street hockey tournament and the Strive for Youth organization, and she expects she will continue Hope for High River Teens for as long as it’s needed in the community. Her daughter and son have also gotten involved and, with Tretiak’s help, they have created small gift bags of comfort for friends who were affected by the flood.
Tretiak is currently accepting donations, with specific need for beauty products like curling and flat irons, new pillows, laundry baskets, sheet sets for kids and teens, and gift cards. She is also hoping to find a way to house donation items in a trailer or small storage shed. Find out more at www.facebook.com by searching Hope for High River Teens.