One year later: The Hearts of the Okanagan

Meghan McInnes painted this poignant picture on her home window during the height of the unknown of the pandemic in March 2020.
Meghan McInnes painted this poignant picture on her home window during the height of the unknown of the pandemic in March 2020.Meghan McInnes painted this poignant picture on her home window during the height of the unknown of the pandemic in March 2020.
Heath Maitland created this Bansky-themed heart tree in her efforts during the Okanagan heart campaign in March and April. (Heather Maitland)Heath Maitland created this Bansky-themed heart tree in her efforts during the Okanagan heart campaign in March and April. (Heather Maitland)
knitted hearts
rock heart
Misty Powell made this heart in snow.

Remember all the windows decorated in hearts last March? Hearts of the Okanagan is a Facebook group that was started in March 2020 in response to the global pandemic.

Now, a year later, the founder and group members reflect on what the viral Facebook group and the ‘heart movement’ did for them to create a feeling of calm and care when the world felt like it was turning upside down.

Arlene Willick started the group ‘Hearts of the Okanagan’ to connect with the community even though everybody was forced apart.

Willick got the idea from Bailey Grose, who created Hearts of Prince George. Grose wanted people to have a way to connect when we were all unable to connect physically.

“I saw her page and wanted to be a part of an amazing idea,” said Willick.

Willick put the page up, and in a very short time, people in her community had hearts in their windows.

“Wherever I drove in the Okanagan, I would see the hearts everywhere. It was such a good feeling to see that we as a city, we as a community, could express our love and thanks to all those on the front lines, helping people through COVID. Without these amazing people, doctors, nurses, store workers, restaurant servers, janitors and many more, the pandemic could have been a lot worse.”

Everyone was encouraged to make hearts of any kind and put them in their windows for others to see.

The idea went viral in the Okanagan from Osoyoos and Penticton to Kelowna and Vernon.

People gravitated to this page, with many in the Okanagan going all out. Some creating lit-up heart displays in their front yards, and others making artwork or knitting hearts.

With so many hearts in windows, it gave families something safe to do. People would drive or walk, finding all the houses that had hearts on them.

Tasia Evans took this powerful photo of her baby standing in the shadows of the heart they had created on their window in March 2020 when we were told not go outside to parks or gather.

Tasia Evans took this powerful photo of her baby standing in the shadows of the heart they had created on their window in March 2020 when we were told not go outside to parks or gather.

For Tasia Evans, with two kids suddenly stuck at home every day, the hearts were a good way to keep them busy. It also helped her nine-year-old feel connected to the friends she couldn’t see.

Evans captured the most poignant photo of her baby standing in the shadows of the geometric heart her daughter had made for their window. As the saying goes, a photo says 1,000 words.

“This past year has been really difficult with kids. It’s been so hard to keep them busy and entertained inside,” said Evans this week. Evans posted the picture of her baby standing in the shadow of the heart to the Hearts of Okanagan Facebook page last March. It was a group page favourite.

“My children have been really missing the social interactions with their friends. When we painted this heart, my nine-year-old was having a hard time not being able to see her friends.”

“A global pandemic is a really hard concept for a child. Painting this kept her busy and her mind off feeling so alone. Afterwards, one of our favourite activities was to drive around and find all the hearts on the windows. It was a reminder that we were not alone, and we are all in this together,” said Evans.

READ ALSO: One year later: B.C. reflects on pandemic

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