Children's 'messages of hope' brighten fences, lighten hearts of Grand Forks flood victims

When Natalie Demenoff arrived at her flood-damaged home to continue cleanup work on Monday morning, she was met by a colourful surprise.

'One day we will be able to restore and heal'

Grand Forks, B.C., resident Natalie Demenoff came home to find messages of hope decorating her flood-damaged home. (Natalie Demenoff)

A caring gesture from a group of local schoolchildren has brightened up the dark past few weeks for Grand Forks, B.C., resident Natalie Demenoff.

Demenoff's home was badly damaged during the massive floods that washed through the city last month.

At its worst, she said there was 1.5 metres of water in her home in Ruckle, a neighbourhood in the city that saw some of the worst damage.

The water has receded, but Demenoff says the ensuing days have been a mess of cleaning and figuring out how to pick up the pieces.

"It's been hard," said Demenoff. "It's been really hard."

But when she arrived at her home to continue the work on Monday morning, she was met by a colourful surprise.

There were hand-painted canvases hanging along her fence line, each canvas displaying a different, encouraging message.

'Hold hope within our hearts'

"To be honest, it brought a tear to my eye," said Demenoff.

"These messages of hope ... really illustrate how we must hold hope within our hearts. That one day we will be able to restore and heal."

The canvases — created by children at John A. Hutton Elementary School — included phrases such as "keep pushing forward" and "let the rivers not divide us, but connect us."

There was no one to greet Demenoff at her property, but she said the canvases spoke for themselves.

The canvases were put up around Grand Forks, B.C., in an effort to cheer up those living in the most damaged areas. (Natalie Demenoff)

'Long journey'

Retired youth counsellor Beth Plotnikoff was one of the people behind the heartfelt gesture.

She said the purpose of the project was to bring solace to members of the community who felt helpless.

"We know it's a long journey to getting back on our feet here in our community," said Plotnikoff.

She said all the children who made the canvases have been affected in some way by the flooding. They've been empathetic while working on the project, which saw the canvases hung around the hardest hit areas.

Demenoff's granddaughter was in one of the classes of children who participated, and this prompted Plotnikoff and her husband to hang the canvases at Demenoff's property.

Plotnikoff worked on a similar project with children in 2015, to bring comfort to those affected by the Rock Creek fire.

With files from Radio West

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