Months after tragedy struck the Oso community with the devastating mudslide on March 22, a few locals have found a way to help residents affected by the disaster.
On June 21, three of the four Sequim Irrigation Festival royalty and two volunteers set out for Oso to donate the royalty’s former 1998 Dodge Caravan to a local pastor for transporting children and seniors.
Deon Kapetan, festival chairman, said they made the van delivery before participating in the Marysville Strawberry Festival’s parade.
The Irrigation Festival recently purchased a newer passenger van and decided to find another use for the older van that was donated in 2003 from Carol French.
Through working with the festival’s board of directors and Trinity United Methodist Church, Kapetan was put in touch with the Rev. Sandi McCalley of Darrington United Methodist Church.
“We’re trying to pay it forward,” Kapetan said. “We got the original van donated and our community helps us so much, why wouldn’t we want to pay it forward. We feel really blessed we have as many supporters as we do.”
On their way to Oso to drop off the van, Kapetan said the drive was sobering with debris all around them.
Festival Queen Katey Tapia said it was like a runway of destroyed trees.
“As it seemed to stop there was this little cabin house with a swing set. It was perfectly intact,” she said. “It was amazing how there could be miles of destruction and this little innocent house was inches away from destruction.”
Princess Judi Villella said as they drove by the slide area, she went into question mode.
“I just couldn’t grasp and understand how such a thing could happen especially to all the people involved and all of the families,” she said. “It was truly heartbreaking.”
Princess Kaylee Ditlefsen said driving through the area was an important experience for them.
“It really got us to appreciate the community and our hearts went out to the many lives affected by the tragedy,” she said.
However spirits were high, especially with the pastor, Villella said. “You could see (her) excitement. I hope (the van) helps bring people together even more through this rough experience.”
The van was donated with a new battery and some glitter engrained into the upholstery from years of royalty use.
Villella said visiting Oso was a good reminder that anything could happen at any moment.
Princess Kristina Holtrop, who couldn’t make this trip, said by donating the van it shows that Sequim is a giving community.
“It’s a cycle of friendship,” she said. “People give to us and we want to give to others.”
The royalty continue a busy parade season appearing with their float around Washington. Afterward, they plan to pursue their individual platforms together. Tapia hopes to work with a local animal group to do a food drive while Holtrop wants to spend a day promoting local, healthier options for Sequim students.
Villella plans to lead a breakfast at the Sequim Prairie Grange to raise funds for a local charity and Ditlefsen wants to host a fundraiser for the Make a Wish Foundation.
This weekend, they’ll appear at the Sequim Lavender Farm Tour & Fair in Carrie Blake Park with their float July 18-20 during Sequim Lavender Weekend.
For more on the Sequim Irrigation Festival, visit irrigationfestival.com.