carr fire signs

Like many in the River Ridge subdivision, Jessica didn’t get the notice to evacuate from the Carr Fire until after she and her two sons had fled the house. “There were flames on the side of Quartz Hill Road as we drove away. My six-year-old was terrified that we were going to die.” Their home was lost.

Jessica’s husband, a wildland firefighter, was quickly called out of town to battle the fires around California, so it fell to her to hold the family together. “We spent over $200 for basics that first night – toothbrushes and food and underwear. We’re a regular family, and that’s a lot of money for us.”

“The fire had snuck up on us, so my boys didn’t want me out of their sight.” Then Jessica saw that the YMCA was offering a free day camp for kids who had been affected by the Carr Fire. Her sons were excited to go. “I was so grateful to have a place for them to go where they could be safe and play and be kids while I went to the Local Assistance Center at Shasta High. They didn’t have to hear me tell the story over and over and relive the trauma.” The boys had so much fun the first day they wanted to go back.

“They got to connect with other kids who had lost their homes. It wasn’t just a space to be kids – it helped them process their feelings… I don’t know if anyone at the Y knows how much it meant to us to have a safe place for our kids during the Carr Fire.”

It didn’t stop there. A few weeks later, Jessica, a long-time member of the Y learned that the YMCA was covering her membership dues until January. “It was a relief to have one less bill to worry about.” And then, her husband got a call that another YMCA member had donated a Target gift card, and the Y staff had chosen Jessica’s family to receive it. “My son’s birthday was coming up, and I was so happy we could get him a present. Then the cashier told me the card had a balance of over three hundred dollars. I just started bawling.”

“The donor trusted us with that decision because we know our families,” said Kristen Lyons, the Shasta Family YMCA CEO. “We’re part of the community. We’ve been here for seventy-five years, and we’re here to stay.”

How does Jessica French feel about the YMCA?

“They stood up for us. The Y was a beacon in our community during a dark time.”

Thank you for sharing your story, Jessica.

- Story gathered by Dave Tanner, Board Chair


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Locations: Shasta Family YMCA
Category: Personal Y Stories