Paddle Prairie woman who lost house to wildfire donates shopping spree

A woman from the Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement, who recently lost her home to the Chuckegg Creek wildfire, is giving away a shopping spree.

Darla Wanuch is donating her shopping spree from a grocery store to High Level Native Friendship Centre

Darla Wanuch says she and her family have been cleaning up the site of their home in Paddle Prairie and they're waiting for a modular home to be delivered. (Submitted by Darla Wanuch)

A woman from the Paddle Prairie Métis Settlement who lost her home to the Chuckegg Creek wildfire is giving away a shopping spree.

Darla Wanuch recently won a 50-second shopping spree from The Grocery People (TGP) store, getting the opportunity to grab as many items as she can in the allotted time. But instead of taking the opportunity, she's paying it forward. 

She's giving it away to the High Level Native Friendship Centre because she says she was touched by their efforts to help wildfire evacuees.  

Wanuch lost her home on May 30 after a massive wildfire swept through Paddle Prairie. She and her mother were evacuated to Grande Prairie — and when they returned home, everything was destroyed. 

Two days later, Wanuch said she received a phone call from the TGP store, telling her she had won their fresh giveaway 50-second shopping spree, a contest she had entered while grocery shopping months back. 

A photo of what's left of Wanuch's house in Paddle Prairie, after it was destroyed by the Chuckegg Creek wildfire. (Submitted by Darla Wanuch)

"I was one of 15 people who had lost my home. I felt like even though I had won the shopping spree, I didn't feel right about taking it. There were 14 more homes that had lost everything," Wanuch said. 

Wanuch said she was touched and in awe of the friendship centre's efforts to help wildfire evacuees, especially when she had to evacuate Paddle Prairie so she wanted to give back. 

"People were going to Grande Prairie not knowing if they were going to be eating that day or that night. They didn't know what was waiting for them on the other end, there was a lot of anxiety," she said. 

"And the High Level Native Friendship Centre lady showed up at our arena with groceries and they laid them all out in the kitchen and everybody just started making lunches to be packed up for these people who were being transported.

"I was awed by the generosity that they showed." 

Friendship centre moved by Wanuch's actions 

Staff from the High Level Friendship Centre said they got emotional when they heard about Wanuch's gesture and her reason for donating the shopping spree. 

"I was excited, I was really touched by her generosity and her thoughts," said Joanne Ducharme, the centre's financial officer. 

"We're here to do as much as we can for the community and then to have somebody, a community member, give back to us, it was very touching, especially at that time [when] she experienced loss herself," said Amanda Dachuk, the centre's executive director. 

"Her mind was still in a thoughtful, positive place, which really blew us away," Dachuk said.  
A photo of the staff from the High Level Native Friendship Centre. (Submitted by Darla Wanuch)

Sam Holm, an RCMP officer at the High Level detachment, will be doing the spree on the centre's behalf. He was volunteered by his wife. 

Next Wednesday, Holm will have 50 seconds to gather as many items from the TGP store as he can. Holm says he already consulted with the friendship centre to find out what they need. 

Dachuk and Ducharme said the centre is in need of non-perishable snacks and toiletry items, such as toothbrushes, shampoo, soap and laundry detergent. 

"That's all in one aisle, so I'll certainly be able to do a lot of damage," Holm said.

"I'll be in running clothing and will have sneakers on, just hoping that I don't trip in the first 10 to 30 seconds," he said. "It'll be a lot of fun." 


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