It was a small loss in the grand scheme of things, but it meant a lot. And as it turned out, there was no shortage of people willing to help replace it.
Emilie Brown, 12, lost a classical guitar she received for Christmas in the Kerr Apartments fire. She was staying with her dad in the building that night, directly above where the fire started.
“We had to get out of there so fast. The fire was right below us,” she said. “I didn’t even have time to think. It wasn’t until we were outside watching, about 20 minutes after we escaped, that it hit me our house was burning down and everything would be gone.”
Her friend’s mother, Tabbatha Whalen, heard about it and started a Facebook group to raise money to buy her a new instrument.
“Emilie was at my house after school the day before the fire,” she says. “She was so thrilled to show me her guitar.”
Whalen has known Emilie since she was six, but had seldom seen her so excited — so she was especially saddened at the loss. While there were lots of other needs to be met in the wake of the fire, she thought replacing the guitar was a small thing she could do.
It was worth about $200, and Whalen dropped off an envelope at Eddy Music for donations, hoping to buy a similar model, and started to get the word out.
“I emailed Emilie and said I’m going to start this benefit to get you a new guitar, and she was completely blown away,” Whalen says.
Within two days, the Selkirk College music department, Operation: Kerr Aid, and Ryan Martin of the Hume Hotel all said they would make up the difference of whatever hadn’t been raised.
She accepted Selkirk’s offer and thanked the others, but as she was about to confirm the details with music department head Jason Taylor, she received an email from Emilie saying: “Don’t buy the guitar! Someone gave me one!”
Her best friend Cassie had one she wasn’t using.
“I was so amazed at all the generosity surrounding her,” Whalen says. “I wasn’t expecting such a great response. I am deeply touched by everyone’s contribution.”
The $35 collected to date was instead put toward buying Emilie a tuner.