Community rallies for family

Support continues to build for an Armstrong mother dealing with unfathomable tragedy.

  • Oct. 26, 2011 1:00 p.m.

Support continues to build for an Armstrong mother dealing with unfathomable tragedy.

Darice Keating lost her two kids, Ava-Mae Claassen, five, and Austin Claassen, four, in a motorhome fire near Lytton Oct. 12, and her mom, Rhonda, and Rhonda’s husband, Doug Willment, remain in Royal Inland Hospital in Kelowna as a result of the fire.

Valley First Credit Union has now collected more than $10,000 in donations.

“These donations have come from individuals and community groups that have rallied to support the family,” said David Kropp, a corporate communications specialist for the credit union.

Rhonda Keating has worked at Valley First for the past 20 years, and that’s where a trust fund for the family.

Valley First pledged to match donations up to $10,000.

Contributions to the Keating Trust fund (account number 799015-201) can still be made at any of the 16 branches of Valley First in the region.

“This tragedy has impacted the community big-time,” said Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper at the city’s regular council meeting Monday.

Friends are also rallying around the family, staging benefit events throughout the North Okanagan to offer their support.

Susie Helland has helped organize a fundraising walk in the children’s memory. The walk will be held at Polson Park in Vernon on Saturday at 9 a.m.

Registration is $15 per person or $40 per family, with donations going to support the children’s mother.

Memorial T-shirts — with the children’s pictures on them — donated by Urban Rebel clothing will also be available for sale.

The Junction Cafe in Armstrong will host a live auction from 2-5 p.m. Saturday, and a balloon release will take place at 3 p.m.

A $20 dance and silent auction at Monashee’s Bar and Grill will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3, featuring The Goods. Tickets are available at the door or by e-mailing

A dinner and a dance fundraiser on Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Armstrong Branding Iron Pub features the band Redfish. Tickets are $25 tickets and are available at the pub or by calling Lydia at 250-241-4847.

Family friend Sarah Fassman has created a website – – that contains photos of the children and information how to donate online using the PayPal system.

Anybody wishing to make a donation can do so in Vernon at the TD-Canada Trust on Anderson Way, quoting branch number 9880 and account number 6433559.

Donations can also be made electronically through TD-Canada Trust online banking by clicking “send money.” The e-mail to use is

There is also a trust account set up at VantageOne Credit Union in Vernon (across from Staples). The account information is Darice Keating in Trust and account number is 897744.


Vernon Morning Star