Clara Cromarty found herself in 100 Mile House after floods led to the evacuation of Merritt. (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Clara Cromarty found herself in 100 Mile House after floods led to the evacuation of Merritt. (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Teen entertains Merritt evacuees

Keyarha Potter made an appearance last weekend at Fischer Place

Merritt evacuees at Fischer Place got a private serenade Sunday by 100 Mile teen Keyarha Potter.

The 16-year-old said it was the least she could do for the 14 long-term care residents, who found themselves relocated to 100 Mile earlier this month after their city was evacuated following excessive flooding of the Coldwater River. Two other in-patients were transferred to 100 Mile District General Hospital.

“I have a fear of getting in front of people when it comes to singing because of my anxiety,” said Potter, a Grade 11 student at Peter Skene Ogden Secondary. “But when I heard of all these people who need entertainment because they’re lonely … I just feel really bad because they probably don’t have people here. If I can provide them with a little bit of happiness, I will do that.”

Potter was one of the first people to respond to an online post by Fischer Place recreation coordinator Noelle Bauer, who was seeking entertainment for the evacuees. She planned to sing Head Above Water by Avril Lavigne to the evacuees because it “really speaks to me” as well as a few other songs.

“It talks about keeping your head up and being strong no matter what happens,” she said, adding she will use lavender oil to calm her anxiety.

“Not only does music help me, it helps others too.”

Bauer appealed to other singers or musicians to come out and entertain the evacuees, who were relocated in E-Wing. She said she will likely ask Potter if she would like to sing again for all the residents at Fischer Place once the residents can start mingling. Another musician is slated to visit the evacuees this Friday.

READ MORE: PSO band performs at Centennial Park

“They seemed to enjoy it so it was really good,” Bauer said.

Interior Health’s Lisa Zetes-Zanatta, executive director of clinical operations, said evacuees were expected to be in 100 Mile for two to four weeks depending on the flooding situation in Merritt.

The Cariboo was one of the few places Interior Health could transfer evacuees, after flooding and mudslides shut down all the major highways – including the Coquihalla, Highway 1, the Hope-Princeton Highway and Highway 99 earlier this month. Other evacuees were taken to Williams Lake, Kamloops and Kelowna.

Merritt resident Clara Cromarty, who is recovering from knee surgery, was one of two in-patients brought to 100 Mile District General Hospital. Cromarty had just been transferred back to Merritt, after spending months in hospitals in Vancouver, before she was relocated to the Cariboo.

She said she had hoped she would be transferred to Kelowna, where her son’s family went after being evacuated. “I cry a lot, it’s an awful feeling,” she said.

Her daughter Tamara reached out on social media, asking people to visit her mom. Cromarty has since had several visits a day from strangers, as well as reconnecting with old friends whom she didn’t realize lived in the area.

“It was nice to have some people coming that I didn’t know,” she said, adding she was also thrilled when Home Hardware delivered her an electric blanket. “It’s a small town and small towns usually take care of you, just like Merritt does.

“There are a lot of people who have nothing left.”

Her daughter said she was thrilled with the kindness of strangers, noting her post has been shared over 1,000 times and the support has lifted her mother’s spirits. A woman from Kamloops sent a card, while another woman crocheted her mother an afghan.

“I was really like ‘holy doodle,’” Tamara said. “It’s just really super kind. I’m pretty indebted to the town of 100 Mile House for their kindness.”

Meanwhile, Bauer is planning more events for both residents and evacuees during the holiday season. These include a visit with Santa and Christmas light tours.

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