The Slave Lake Fire: Disaster relief in action
On May 15, 2011 the northern Alberta town of Slave Lake was almost completely devastated by massive wildfires. In the aftermath of this disaster and with smoke still heavy in the air, Walmart teamed up with national charity partner, the Canadian Red Cross, to help get the shaken town back on its feet.
On the same day the fire swept through the town, the Canadian Red Cross got the emergency call to help evacuate more than 17,000 individuals in Slave Lake and surrounding communities. A team of seven Red Cross volunteers rushed in from Edmonton that same night bringing more than 400 cots and 800 blankets.
Stepping up to help
Within a matter of days, Walmart Canada responded by donating $100,000 in gift cards to national charity partner, the Canadian Red Cross as well as setting up an online fundraising campaign on walmart.ca to fast track help to local families in need.
This was just the beginning. Walmart associate volunteers in the area worked side-by-side with Red Cross to first contribute and then distribute emergency supplies like blankets, food, clothing, water hygiene kits, and diapers, to the displaced townspeople.
Our support of the Canadian Red Cross means that when families or entire communities are impacted by natural disaster or emergencies, the Red Cross network of over 25,000 highly trained volunteers can respond immediately to where needed most. Their range of services includes everything from reuniting families separated by the disaster to offering shelter and emotional support.
Kickoff in Alberta for the National Campaign
Later that same summer on the fourth of August, we joined with Red Cross in Slave Lake to kick off our eighth annual Canadian Red Cross National Walmart Campaign with a barbecue and special events at the still-standing Walmart store.
To celebrate the launch, Red Cross organized a Build-A-Kit race to engage the public about being prepared for disaster and have some fun in the process. Many people participated in the event including the town mayor, Red Cross volunteers and Walmart associates who raced around the store, taking emergency provisions like candles, blankets, and diapers off the shelves, and tossed them into their shopping carts. Participants were judged on three criteria: resemblance to the official Canadian Red Cross disaster preparedness kit, relevance and creativity – often scoring highest on the latter.
At the same time, Walmart stores across the country prepared for another year of Red Cross fundraising with a 2011 national goal of $2.8 million. During this cross-country national campaign held each August, our associates engage customers to support the Red Cross with an opportunity to donate at the checkout. Interestingly, Alberta customers are always among the most generous of any province. As the campaign comes to its close, Walmart matches the amount raised at each store, up to $2,000.
The annual campaign is working to help the families and communities who need it the most. “Walmart has been a great partner, especially this year,” says Andres Gutierrez, community relations with the Canadian Red Cross – Alberta. “They helped not only during the wildfires response, but also help when Red Cross responds to the needs of the most vulnerable here in Alberta.”