“Our tractor was melted” CDS Oklahoma Wildfire Deployment, April 2018


I had the privilege of being part of a team of four Children’s Disaster Services volunteers serving at a MARC (multi-agency resource center) after wildfires in Oklahoma burned more than 316,000 acres and 63 homes.  We set up our playroom in the corner of the main hall surrounded by tables representing agencies providing disaster aid. I had the honor of engaging in side-by-side play with some of the children as they shared what was on their minds.  Some school-aged children talked freely about being woken up from a deep sleep to evacuate quickly.  Three young brothers drew pictures depicting country roadways as they told how they hurriedly left with their family dog to spend the night in a hotel in a nearby town. When they returned home the next day, “our tractor had melted”.   A few other kids creatively played with toys while pretending to answer phones as emergency responders.  Cardboard boxes were used to build barns for animals, scratch art and picture books provided moments for children to live their feelings. Chasing bubbles reinforced the playful expression of being alive.

As I recall these moments, I am filled with compassion satisfaction and enduring appreciation of the CDS mission and community of service, and the opportunity to represent CLDR on the midwest prairie. Nothing feels more thrilling than promoting the power of play for healing. I am learning how to listen to children and how to behold them making sense of their situation in the tension release of expressive moments. A child chooses colors to build up, tear down, and remix a bowl of “rainbow bites”; playdoh eases her self-declaration of an evacuation story.  Some children communicated their concern and affection for their pets through their play and art-making. After the fire, the land will come back, families and children will bounce back turning anguish into resilience, and CDS volunteers will serve children after disasters again and again because it is our destiny to care.  I am truly grateful for the opportunity to continue professing child life as the power of play for healing.

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