For the past week, there has been a lot of focus on Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Many of us have visited Gatlinburg over the years and enjoyed the mountains and everything they offer. This past summer I took my family to the Smoky Mountains to show them things my parents introduced me to and to enjoy the time together. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge have so many memories for many people, it is as if it has this hold on you and makes you come back year after year. The low clouds give the mountains the feeling of having smoke hanging over them.
Smoke was hanging over them the week of November 28th as several fires were started, and the 70 mile an hour winds pushed the embers over the Smoky Mountains. Homes were lost, resorts were burned to the ground, and people were trapped in hotels at the top of the mountains. There were over 2000 evacuated to safer places in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. The news covered the fires and followed families who were looking for their loved ones for days, to later find out they didn’t make it out of their homes.
Dolly Parton grew up in Sevier County, and she took it upon herself to start several fundraising efforts to help those who lost their homes and their lively hood. The town mayor not only lost his house, but he lost his business as well. Hundreds of people are now unemployed due to resorts burning down, businesses lost and hotels were lost to the fire. Dolly’s foundation has set up a fund to help the residents of Sevier County get back on their feet.
People and companies from all over the United States are sending in food, water, Gatorade, clothing, toys, pet food, and other miscellaneous items for those that need to replace their possessions. One of the local news stations said they need canned meat and things they can make meals. There have been all kinds of protein bars, breakfast bars and such sent to the volunteer fire department, but they need things to make meals with.
This morning they announced they were in need of new books and toys for the children to have a Christmas. The items are to be sent to the Sevier County Volunteer Rescue Department, and they will have the parents come in and pick out what they need. I called my publisher and asked if I could send 20 books, Galon the Northern Pintail Duck, down so the kids would have something more from Santa on Christmas morning. The answer was yes. I knew he had a big heart and I knew it was something I wanted to do. I am also sending a hard copy of the book so they can donate it to the local library for the kids to read.
The hardest part of a disaster such as this is the kids. They don’t understand why they don’t have their toys anymore, or why they have to sleep on a cot at the fire department instead of in their bed. Kids are resilient, but in times like this your heart goes out to them, and you just want to tell them it is going to be okay.