Effort to raise money for Oso memorial brings gala to Seattle
The stories of loss from the 2014 Oso mudslide are heart wrenching. The stories of community, bravery, and fighting through the muck and debris for months to find every last one of the 43 victims are inspirational. That goes double for the years-long effort by families of those lost to raise the estimated $6 million needed to build a memorial park at the slide site.
Jessica Pszonka lost six family members in the slide.
“I lost my sister Katie, her husband Shane, my two nephews Hunter and Wyatt, and then Shane’s parents Judy and Lou Vandenburg,” Pszonka said.
For years, Pszonka and other family members of those lost in the slide have been working to raise the roughly $6 million needed to build a permanent memorial park at the slide site to honor not just her family members, but to help the community, state, and country remember what happened there.
“I know that if the roles were reversed my sister would be doing exactly the same thing for me if I was lost,” Pszonka said.
“You know one of my biggest things is, the first responders spent a ridiculous amount of their energy, bodies, time, money to make sure that all 43 people were brought back to us, and I want to make sure that not only my family that I lost are remembered forever, [but] that those first responders that took their lives in their hands to help my family to have some sort of closure are remembered as well,” she continued.
The Memorial Park is an awesome design.
“If you want to learn about the event itself and the natural aspect of it, there’s a section about that,” she described. “There will be stories about some of the first responders and the survivors that lived through it, and the 43 that perished. There will be sections for each of the family members to go pay their respect and remembrance to them. So, it’s absolutely gorgeous.”
She and many others say the 43 trees planted for the victims shortly after the slide don’t do the event, the victims, or the community justice, especially with visitors from around the world, and because the slide site is literally sacred ground.
So, why people should help now?
“Because this happened in your own state – 43 people in your state passed away,” Pszonka said. “Thousands and thousands and thousands of people from your state and your communities were out there and are still struggling to this day about the things they saw, their bodies – they’ve hurt themselves [during rescue and recovery] – it’s bigger than just the 43 that were lost. It’s the biggest [deadliest] landslide in U.S. history, and our state was part of that. Your neighbors, your community, everyone was part of that and we need to remember that… forever,” she said.
Over the last couple of years, they’ve held auctions and some fundraisers, including one with KIRO Radio, where many of our listeners helped with tens of thousands in donations. The state has also kicked in several hundred thousand dollars, but there’s more to be done.
You can help come Saturday, June 22, as families, first responders, and others come together for their biggest fundraiser yet: The Pacific Northwest Paradise Ball and Auction at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront.
“It’s a way to help the project, have a little bit of fun, buy some auction items, and contribute to a really, really great cause,” Pszonka said.
Hundreds of tickets have already been sold, but they still have another 100 or so to sell to fill the room and meet their fundraising goal.
“There will be a Raise the Paddle, there will be a Dessert Dash, there will be a live auction and a silent auction with amazing items – vacations, and date nights and tons of really, really great stuff,” Pszonka said, as she explained they’re asking the community that came together for them back in 2014 to come together once more.
“We want to fill that room is what we want to do, so what we’re asking the community is to come out for us for a night and get dressed up and have some fun,” Pszonka said.
Tickets are $150 and you can buy them and learn more about the event and the Memorial Park at slidememorial.com.