On September 7th, 2022, tragedy struck the DeVries family. Pondera County fire officials were dispatched to a fire along Highway 91 three miles north of Conrad at about 3:30 pm. Riley and Sara DeVries, along with their three children, lost their home as well as farm equipment and all of their belongings.
Thanks to several organizers in the area, a benefit was hosted for the DeVries. Scores of people gathered at the Pondera Golf Course for the benefit.
One of the organizers, Laurie Philipps, stated, "The community support is top notch. I've had people calling and texting me asking, 'what can I do,' 'what can I help you with,' 'what can I donate,' 'where can I help you.' The community and surrounding communities has been so supportive and I'm thankful for everybody."
We also got the chance to speak with Riley and Sara on their recollection of what happened on September 7th.
Riley said, "We had really high winds that day, and the phone call I got was that I urgently needed to get home, and she happened to be home at the time, which isn't normal. Normally she's at work as well. So, she got the kids ready and out of the house and in the car, and I started heading out of town towards the house. As soon as I could see the fire, I called her and said it was time to leave.
Sara described her initial reaction.
"It was really hard for me," she said. "I had the three kids in the car with me and we were watching the fire coming towards us. So, I had to let them know, and when Riley came back up to us, we had stopped on the county road and he said, 'You got to go. The fires at the driveway.' There was me and the three kids in the car and they all just lost it. They started bawling because we knew at that point, we were going to lose our house.
We also spoke with the three kids - Madison, Brent, and Chloe.
When asked about the support they received, Brent said, "it makes me feel happy that we have a very good community."Madison expanded upon his point, adding, "it's amazing how many people care and I just love that we're in a community that really cares about us."
Losing everything means starting from scratch, and that is exactly what the DeVries family will do.
"Right now, we are trying to figure out what we're going to call home forever," Riley said. "We had a lot of housing offers right away. The community stepped up and offered us places to stay temporarily, so we're in a nice house for now until we figure out where we're going to rebuild and start our yard all over again."
Despite the hardships, the benefit was a major factor in supporting the DeVries family. Sara expressed her gratefulness for the support.
"It's extremely humbling to know how much people care and they will come out and support you no matter what kind of challenges you're facing, she said. "It's very humbling."
If you wish to donate, there is a benefit account set up at Stockman Bank (checks can be made payable to Riley & Sara DeVries) at 420 S Main Street, Conrad, MT 59425. You can also donate via a GoFundMe page.
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