Oso survivors pay forward support they once received

ARLINGTON — There are 43 of them holding yellow ribbons that read “Oso Hope.”

The stuffed bears, dogs and other critters were being sent to Eastern Washington. Local firefighters will carry them along as they assist with wildfires.

The yellow ribbons, plus Subway gift cards, were added to the stuffed animals by the families of those lost in the deadly March 2014 mudslide between Oso and Darrington.

As time passed, many of the families have found themselves looking outward, said Tim Ward, a survivor who lost his wife.

The survivors have found they possess energy and focus, and a new group of friends bonded by a shared grief. They wanted to turn those resources to something positive, to help others, and “for something other than reflecting back on our losses,” Ward said Tuesday.

All of them have received help in countless ways, said Jessica Pszonka-Lutz, who lost her sister and five other family members in the slide.

So much of that help arrived anonymously, in the form of quilts, cash and supplies, she said.

Ward received a blanket at the hospital from a random family. He kept the blanket close for months. The family included their picture with the blanket. He liked that, so he attached a picture of himself and his dog, Blue, to one of the stuffed animals.

Eventually, the families would like the Oso Hope project to grow, so they can send supplies and gifts after other disasters. They are hoping to connect with corporate sponsors, said Peggy Ray, a Marysville woman who has stepped up to organize advocacy for survivors.

“We want to definitely expand,” Pszonka-Lutz said.

They remember all too well what it was like not to have a toothbrush, extra underwear or a phone charger. Accepting gifts was humbling. It feels good to be a giver again, she said.

Some of the families get together regularly. More and more survivors attend the weekly support group, Ward said. It takes guts to walk in that room for the first time, he said. He tells others: “Just come in, sit down and breathe. You’re not alone.”

Still, many of those affected have moved away and stayed away. Those who are close still see each other posting to Facebook in the middle of the night. Then they know it’s OK to call. Whoever is posting couldn’t sleep either.

Art projects, such as the bears, and rocks they’re painting to place beneath the memorial trees at the slide, give their time a purpose, Ray said.

There’s only so long that one can focus on his own grief, Ward said. The slide happened and they can never change that.

“We understand what we’ve been through and we understand that we’re where we are,” he said.

The number of Oso Hope stuffed animals going to Eastern Washington is 43, the same number as those killed in the slide. That number felt right, Pszonka-Lutz said.

Now, helping others will honor those who were lost, and the love and the legacy they left behind.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road on Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Long live the Speedway! Mukilteo’s main drag won’t be renamed

The public shot down the mayor’s idea to change the name: 77% voted ‘No’ in an online survey, with 95% opposed on Facebook.

Everett
Motorcyclist dies in crash on East Marine View Drive in Everett

Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, a motorcycle and a vehicle crashed into each other at the intersection of 11th street and East Marine View Drive.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Motorcyclist dies in crash on Highway 530

Jeremy Doyle, 46, was riding east near Darrington when he crashed into the side of a car that was turning left.

The Marysville School District office on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Financially insolvent’ Marysville schools to get unprecedented oversight

Superintendent Chris Reykdal will convene a first-of-its-kind Financial Oversight Committee, he wrote in a letter Tuesday.

Woodside Elementary Principal Betty Cobbs on Monday, June 17, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s first Black principal retires after 51 years

In her office, Betty Cobbs kept a black-and-white photo of herself at age 5: “I am right there, with dreams of becoming an educator.”

Junelle Lewis, right, daughter Tamara Grigsby and son Jayden Hill sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during Monroe’s Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
On Juneteenth: ‘We can always say that there is hope’

The Snohomish County NAACP is co-sponsoring a celebration Saturday near Snohomish, with speakers, music and food.

Granite Falls
Man, 35, dies from heart attack while hiking Lake 22

The man suffered a heart attack about 1½ miles into the 6-mile hike east of Granite Falls on Friday, authorities said.

36 hours after final show, Everett radio host Charlye Parker, 80, dies

When Parker got into radio, she was a rarity: a woman in a DJ booth. For the past 12 years, she hosted weekend country music shows at KXA.

Dr. Scott Macfee and Dr. Daniel Goodman outside of the Community Health Center on Wednesday, June 12, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett CHC doctors, feeling like ‘commodities,’ speak up on ailing system

At the Community Health Center of Snohomish County, doctors say they feel like “rats getting off a sinking ship.” They want it to get better.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Man charged with shooting at ex-girlfriend, child in Mountlake Terrace

The man, 21, showed up to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment and opened fire through the door, new court records say.

People walk along Olympic Avenue past Lifeway Cafe and Olympic Theater that currently hosts Lifeway Church on Friday, July 7, 2023 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Arlington churches waged covert ‘battle’ against Pride event, records show

Sermons, emails and interviews reveal how an LGBTQ+ nonprofit became the target of a covert campaign by local evangelical leaders.

Drive-in movies are coming to the north Island. (Port of Everett image)
Where to catch outdoor movies this summer in Snohomish County

Bring a chair, blanket and the kids for a cinema night under the stars with your favorite movies, including “Barbie” and “Trolls.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.