Stars of HOPE

Hope is on its way to Fort McMurray on Canada Day

By Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly

One of the hundreds of painted wooden stars being brought to Fort McMurray by the Stars of HOPE program. Residents are in- vited to take part in the program by joining the SoH team at the Heroes Community Barbeque at MacDonald Island on Canada Day from noon to 5 p.m.

One of the hundreds of painted wooden stars being brought to Fort McMurray by the Stars of HOPE program. Residents are invited to take part in the program by joining the SoH team at the Heroes Community Barbeque at MacDonald Island on Canada Day from noon to 5 p.m.

Hope – it’s such a small word packed with much meaningfulness. It’s a word to describe the desire for a certain thing to happen and to describe a feeling of trust. It’s this very word that has been instilled in a worldwide therapy project, known as Stars of HOPE (SoH).

On July 1, SoH representatives from across North America will be found walking in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo’s 2016 Canada Day Parade, and will also have a workshop set up at MacDonald Island Park from noon to 5 p.m., where residents can take the time to paint messages on wooden stars.

Suzanne Bernier, a resident of Toronto, Ontario, is one of the New York Says Thank You Foundation board members and the Global Ambassador of SoH. She is looking forward to spreading hope to the community.

“Hundreds of stars, which have already been painted by children and adults from across the U.S. and Canada, will be permanently posted and displayed all over the city, to bring colour, hope, love, and light back to Fort McMurray,” she said.

Bernier explained how she was speaking at a disaster conference last month about her recently launched book titled, Disaster Heroes, when she was approached by an audience member who helped make the program for Fort McMurray residents immediate.

“I ended the presentation by talking about my recent involvement with Stars of HOPE in San Bernardino, CA and Brussels, Belgium. I also included a few photos of Stars of HOPE that had been painted by Jeff Parness (the founder of SoH) and his family in NYC, who intended to send them to Fort Mac.”

It was Pam de Boer who spoke with Bernier. She works with Paul Davis – a national restoration company – and told Bernier how the company was helping Fort McMurray with relief efforts.

“She wanted to work with me to try and bring a Stars of HOPE paint workshop to Fort Mac. I immediately said yes, and we basically started setting the wheels in motion the very next day.”

The initiative started as an umbrella program to the New York Says Thank You Foundation in 2007. The program’s sole focus is to empower children of all ages to transform communities impacted by natural and man-made disasters through colourful art and messages of hope and healing. The ‘stars’ are made out of one-foot-long wood, painted with messages of hope and inspiration; and hung up for all in their community to see.

According to, SoH began after two families were struck by disaster. The Parness family in New York wanted to pay it forward to their city after 9/11; and Vincent family in Groesbeck, Texas wanted to express their gratitude to those you rebuilt their home following a deadly tornado.

“Now, thanks to Pam, and the amazing team at Paul Davis, several volunteers – including myself, Jeff Parness from NYC, a Fire Chief and tornado survivor from Texas, another tornado survivor from Kansas, and a San Bernardino shooting survivor – are all landing in Fort Mac to help provide hope, help and healing to the residents of Fort McMurray.”

-Connect Weekly-