Sumner High homecoming defines ‘Valley Strong’

Sumner, Washington — After a devastating fire in historic downtown Sumner Friday morning, the community is still picking up the pieces. Throughout the day, East Pierce Fire and numerous crews were monitoring the scene on the 900 block of Main Street.

The fire’s impact went beyond the damaged businesses. Events like Sumner High School’s homecoming parade had to change their normal route, but many within the school and community believed the route change was a minimal inconvenience.

“I’ve lived in Sumner my whole life. I grew up going to Main Street and going to their events. I actually volunteered with them this whole summer, and it’s really a bummer because in Sumner, we all support each other so well, especially our Main Street downtown businesses,” senior Rylee Smith said.

Smith says this was a homecoming to remember, for mixed reasons.

“I woke up and I immediately hear about the news that happened on Main Street. And it was kind of this weird, conflicting feelings about what the day was going to look like,” Smith said.

That is why the school had an idea to help those businesses out. They created ValleyStrong, a donation system accessible by a QR code, which could be scanned by a cellphone to allow people to send donations to help the businesses lost by the fire.

“But to be able to come together and bring that strong tradition of what happens here on homecoming week, we are really excited to be able to do (that) today,” Sumner High School principal Kassie Meath said.

“One of the things about Sumner is that we find a way to make good out of difficult situations,” adviser and teacher Brandon Wentzel said.

The code was plastered on all homecoming vehicles during the parade, which Wentzel says the business owners wanted to still go on despite what happened.

“This isn’t just ‘Oh gosh, they don’t even care,’ but it’s the opposite. We are going to show up because we care, and to show that support visually for those at a loss today,” Wentzel said.

While they encourage everyone who can to donate and help, they say this help is just the beginning.

“But what happens a month later, or two months later? And that’s just us taking care of our community as we go through time,” Meath said.

Residents say that is what ValleyStrong is all about.

“It’s how everyone gets through. It’s why Sumner such a special place to be. Because we aren’t only together, only helping during the good times, but we come together to support each other no matter what,” Smith said.

To donate, scan the QR code below.

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