Friends, family and farmers rally for barn fire victims
Ruiter family lost 3 barns, 80 cattle to fire in early September
An Ottawa family that lost three barns and most of their cattle to fire last month says they're blown away by the support they've received since then, including a fundraising party Saturday evening.
Peter and Rosemary Ruiter lost the barns, equipment and around 80 cattle valued at over $1,000,000 in a fire on Sept. 8.
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Friends such as Wyatt McWilliams said the family is a community staple who regularly promote the area's dairy industry and they wanted to show their support, both emotionally and financially.
"It's a fundraiser but it's also an evening for everyone to get together, like Thanksgiving last weekend," he said.
"We can give thanks to Peter for everything he's done and it gives Peter a chance to thank the community for their overwhelming support."
The result was the Blackrapids Farmfest, named after the Ruiters' Nepean farm.
It featured auctions, a buffet and dance and speeches from Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod, Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre and Mayor Jim Watson — who said former mayor Larry O'Brien was also in the crowd.
"I've never been a recipient of this much neighbourly support," said Peter.
"It's been an outpouring, I didn't realize i knew these many people, I guess."
Many who spoke brought up Peter's work as an agricultural ambassador or activist in the community, whether helping raise money for food banks, opening up his farm for school visits or representing the industry in the media.
"There's people here from his church, there's people here from the city he sold pumpkins to, there's people here he's delivered milk to for their school programs," said Paul Mussell, another organizer.
"It's a wide range [of ways] the Ruiter family has been involved in the community."
The Ruiters said they're still figuring out what to do next but are extremely grateful for the money that's being raised to help cover their bills, including a crowdfunding campaign, since so much of their income was from the dairy side of the operation.
"I can only say thank you, thank you and thank you again to everybody. I'm blown away. It's a little over the top," Peter said.
Rosemary then recalled a card they got not long after the fire that said when it's raining, to look for the rainbow to get yourself through.
"When you're down low the only way you can survive is [if you] keep going," she said.