Paul Brandt, Aaron Lines visit Fort McMurray evacuees
'You can tell in his eyes he’s heartbroken,' says evacuee after meeting Alberta country music star Brandt
Kevin Vokey, 37 his wife Lori, 38 and their 17-year-old daughter Dakota have been living at a campground in Wandering River, since evacuating Fort McMurray a week ago.
When they had to meet with their insurance agent in Sherwood Park, they decided to stop by the Expo Centre evacuation centre in Edmonton to see familiar faces.
They didn't expect those faces to be of their favourite country singers.
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"We couldn't have had better timing," said Lori Vokey. "I never factored in a hug from Paul Brandt or Aaron Lines. I just never dreamed that I'd live a situation where stars would want to hear our story."
Thank you Aaron Lines for playing for our evacuees <a href="https://twitter.com/Northlands">@Northlands</a> today. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ymmhelps?src=hash">#ymmhelps</a> <a href="https://t.co/CeZERPbxSA">pic.twitter.com/CeZERPbxSA</a>—@Northlands
Lines was born and raised in Fort McMurray. He grew up in the Beacon Hill neighbourhood almost completely destroyed by last week's wildfire. Little of the homes remain except the concrete foundations and driveways.
"Your hometown is your hometown even if you've been gone a little while," said Lines. "Fort Mac was always like an old friend for me. That old friend you don't see as much as you want."
Brandt said the evacuees' stories inspire him.
"We're finding an incredible people that are full of resilience.They've taken a hard blow, " said Brandt. "We're assuring them that we're here to support them and stand by them in the long run."
He says there isn't any plans for a benefit concert right now, but wants to figure out what the need will be and says he'll be finding more ways to give emotional support.
Kevin Vokey feels that support. Brandt's visit is a reminder to hold his head high through the tough, uncertain future of returning to a city the Newfoundlander now calls home.
"You can tell by looking in his eyes that he's so sincerely hurt and heart broken," he said. "That we all have to go through this means a lot and it hits right in the heart. It's a confidence booster. Now we've got another story to tell our friends."
The Vokeys will live in Grande Prairie while Dakota finishes her Grade 11 school year. But then they'll be Fort McMurray bound where they've lived for 17 years to rebuild their Abasand home lost to the fire.