By Scott Linn
As have so many across the country and throughout Tennessee, students and teachers from Jefferson Middle School express their sadness over the recent fires that burned through Gatlinburg, destroying a number of buildings and homes.
JMS ski and snowboard club members have been taking after-school trips to Ober Gatlinburg for more than 20 years on Wednesday afternoons each winter.
This year, to show support for the area and those who are working to rebuild, the students are wearing Smokies Strong T-shirts for their ski trips to Ober Gatlinburg. The shirts were a gift from an anonymous donor who provided the club with 50 shirts.
“When our club showed up in our Smokies Strong shirts on our first trip of the season, it had an impact on the workers up there, and I’m just really glad the club could play even a small part in helping lift their spirits,” said seventh-grader Allison Myers.
The Red Cross, the Dollywood Foundation, and Friends of the Smokies will benefit from proceeds of the sales of the shirts.
The club was also able to present Pete Jucker, the director of instruction at Ober Gatlinburg, with a “Heal and Rebuild at the Heart of the Fire” flag that was signed by the students. Pete and his wife Joy, who lost their home and possessions in the fire, designed the flags. Property owners who have suffered similar losses and are rebuilding will each receive a Heal and Rebuild flag on their home sites. Each flag flies as a symbol of hope.
“I pray for the families who lost their homes or even a loved one, but I urge them to have courage in this time of rebuilding,” said club member and eighth-grader Christopher Thornburgh.
The JMS Ski and Snowboard Club wants to express thanks and appreciation to those who have supported the Gatlinburg rebuilding process. They also want to let Pete and other staff at Ober Gatlinburg who experienced loss from the fires know that the students and staff at JMS continue to think about them.
Nick Dallas, an eighth-grader and veteran of the club said: “In my years at Jefferson, I have really enjoyed the ski and snowboard club, and I especially appreciate everything that Mr. Jucker and the rest of the staff at Ober have done to help us become better skiers and snowboarders.” The school continues to stand with them, Smokies Strong.
This article and photos were submitted by Scott Linn, a teacher and club sponsor at Jefferson Middle School.