The picture says it all.
The small gesture is a symbol of rebirth in Fort McMurray, and it came from an Edmonton girl.
When six-year-old Sofia Anderson decided to donate a tree to Fort McMurray, her father, a firefighter wasn’t surprised.
“She’s what we call an old soul,” said Darren Anderson. “She’s always had a caring heart for things and for people.”
Sofia brought the sapling home from her Our Lady of Mount Carmel grade one class. It sat in her house until Sofia saw how the wildfires ravaged parts of Fort McMurray. She asked her dad to plant it in a place it was needed most — it was secret between the two.
On May 20, Darren, a 15-year firefighter with Strathcona County Emergency Services got the call for deployment. He packed his bag and the tree.
“It was in a small white little bag, and I had it in my pocket,” said Darren. After more than a day of dousing hot spots near Fort McMurray, he finally found the perfect spot.
“It just seemed like it was the right place to put it.”
Before walking away, Darren snapped a picture, and shared it on Facebook with the message “To Fort McMurray… From Sofia.”
That picture was picked up by a Facebook group called “McMurray’s My Home,” and has now been shared more than 7,000 times. The group has had offers from grade one students across the province asking to donate their trees, and a school in Scotland wants to get involved. Social media was where Sofia’s mom first saw the picture.
“Yeah I totally melted,” Michelle Anderson told Global News from her kitchen table. “I thought it was beautiful and I said, ‘that’s awesome.'”
Michelle, a photographer had no idea Sofia gave her dad the tree. She plans to blow up the picture and hang it in their home.
“Photographs speak volumes on so many different levels, and that one is just the whole package,” said Michelle. “Emotion, simplicity, hope.”
Watch below: Six-year-old girl gives dad her grade 1 tree to plant in burned Alberta forest. Kendra Slugoski reports
Michelle and Darren are shocked and humbled by the messages sent to their family in response to Sofia’s idea.
“I think someone on social media called it the ‘Hope Tree,’ and I thought that was pretty special,” said Michelle. “That’s what we’ll call it.”
Darren is floored that something that cost nothing has helped many look to the future.
“The fact that a simple picture like that can bring hope and love to so many… it just makes it that more special to myself and our family.”
Perhaps Sofia, like her simple gesture, sums it up best.
“All of the trees burned down and my tree made their hearts happy.”