Toronto

Fort McMurray bride who lost wedding dress in wildfire helped by Torontonians

Torontontonians have come to the aid of a bride-to-be from Fort McMurray, Alta., whose wedding dress was destroyed in the wildfire that is devastating the Alberta community.

Torontonians offer up more than 100 wedding dresses to bride in need

A bride-to-be from Fort McMurray says she's overwhelmed by the outpouring of support she's received from Torontonians after her wedding dress was destroyed in the wildfire that is still consuming much of the Alberta community. 0:49

A bride-to-be from Fort McMurray says she's overwhelmed by the support from Torontonians who helped her get a wedding dress to replace the one destroyed in the wildfire that is consuming much of the Alberta community.

"You don't expect this to happen and then for people to put out this much love and support ... it's crazy," Élise Boissonneault told CBC.

"As far as what's going on in Fort McMurray, that's very overwhelming, as well. You know, not knowing if we're going to have a home to go back to, if our friends are going to have a home to go back to. It's hard right now."

Despite the devastation back home, including mass evacuations, Boissonneault and her future groom decided to go through with their wedding plans, flying into Toronto on Thursday ahead of this coming weekend's nuptials on Toronto Island. 

The only problem: The bride still needed a dress because the one she had was destroyed along with the bridal shop holding it.   

Boissonneault's friend and her photographer took to Facebook, hoping to track down an identical gown — and Torontonians came through.

Élise Boissonneault lost the wedding dress she's wearing in this photo in the wildfire that continues to burn in Fort McMurray, Alta. (Zaira Gaudio Fry)

More than 100 dresses were offered by people across the city, as well as other free services, from hairstyling to jewelry, to make her wedding day extra special.

Boissonneault has since heard that her home in Fort McMurray is OK. 

Boissonneault is still grappling with the devastation back home in Fort McMurray, as she prepares for her wedding Saturday in Toronto. She has been told her home is unaffected. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

Shamini Selvaratnam, for one, was quick to offer her new dress to Boissonneault. 

"I put myself in that girl's position and I thought, 'What would I do,'" Selvaratnam said.

"I could not imagine what this person must be going through not having a wedding dress or anything for that matter, and so I thought, it's going to bring her more joy than me." 

Wedding dress offerings have been pouring in from across the city. (Facebook/Holly Allyse)

Selvaratnam was going to get the dress tailored, since it wasn't quite the right fit, but decided it could be put to better use making someone else's dream wedding come true. ​​

Zaira Gaudio Fry said she heard about Boissonneault's story on Facebook and decided to put out her own call for wedding dress donations. 

"Planning a wedding, it's brutal," Fry said. "It's the worst nightmare of any bride-to-be. Like, it's the week of my wedding and my wedding dress went up in flames."

'Not like hers but maybe she'll like it,' Morris later commented on the photo. (Facebook/Rima Dib Morris)

Fry was surprised to see her request shared more than 750 times, with dozens of offers from people across the city. 

"Everybody just wanted to help out and do what they could," Fry said.​​

Ultimately, the posts led to offers from two bridal shops in Toronto to lend Boissonneault a dress for her big day. 

She picked out a dress from Lee-Ann Belter Bridal onThursday night, shortly after arriving in the city. 

A couple of Facebook commenters thought this dress might be the 'winner.' (Facebook/Shamini Selvaratnam)

"If I had to get married in jeans and a T-shirt, that would have been fine, too," Boissonneault said. 

"There's lots of dresses to choose from so it's going to be hard, but at least I have a dress to choose."

She says she plans to return to Fort McMurray as soon as she can to help out those in need.

In the meantime, she's grateful for the help offered by strangers. 

"I didn't think there was that kind of kindness in the world," she said. "It's just awesome."

With files from Mike Wise & Nick Boisvert

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